Rory Butcher was left to rue a missed opportunity from the Croft round of the British Touring Car Championship, as the Toyota driver suffered an early engine failure which left him battling to break into the top ten.
Butcher had spoken of his high confidence going into the event, and that looked to be based upon genuine speed, as he posted the fastest time in first practice.
Again on the pace in second practice, with the third fastest lap, Butcher was confident of challenging for pole position in qualifying, until an uncharacteristic engine failure left him without a lap time and starting race one from the back of the grid.
Lining up in 29th for the first race, Butcher made six places on the opening lap and ultimately took the chequered flag in 19th – still outside the points – having made up ten places.
Hoping to build on that result for race two, Butcher found himself taken out of the race by a rival at the Complex on the opening lap, which again gave him a back-of-the-grid starting position for race three.
For the final race, Butcher put on a determined drive to rise from 29th on the grid to 11th at the end of the race, demonstrating the potential in his Toyota Corolla had he not had to start so far back in all three races.
“I felt really confident going to Croft,” said Butcher. “Given the circuit’s proximity to the Scottish border, I had fantastic support and the Corolla was in great shape, as we proved in practice.
“The engine failure in qualifying then came completely out-of-the-blue. Christian [Dick] said to me afterwards that it was the first time this season he had believed we were genuinely on for pole position. We had so much speed in the car, and it was just such a shame we couldn’t exploit it.
“Starting dead last in race one, we knew we had our work cut out. Being at the back of the grid, the aim is obviously to fight your way through, but you also have to be mindful that you are much more susceptible to getting caught up in other drivers’ dramas – as we discovered to our cost.
“It’s such a competitive field in the BTCC, so we bolted the soft tyres on for the first race as we thought they would be faster, but it turned out that the car actually felt stronger on the medium compound.
“I climbed as far up the order as I could, and the plan was to do more of the same in race two but then I got taken out on the opening lap – simply wrong place, wrong time.
“That meant we had to try to do it all over again in race three and following a stellar repair job by the Speedworks mechanics, the Corolla was really on its tiptoes and I could keep on pushing the whole way through.
“I managed to steer clear of all the incidents this time and whenever I had clear air, I was able to rapidly catch the cars ahead and very nearly snuck into the top ten on the last lap.
“It was unquestionably a weekend of ‘what could have been’, but it was nonetheless a great feeling to see all the behind-the-scenes development converted into on-track performance and progress.
“We didn’t get the results we deserved at Croft due to circumstances beyond our control, but we certainly showed what we are capable of and everybody in the team should feel extremely proud of their efforts. Roll on Silverstone!”