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Rory Butcher laments a ‘too safe’ setup at Thruxton

Toyota’s Rory Butcher believes that a car setup which was ‘just too safe’ on Saturday hindered his weekend in the British Touring Car Championship at Thruxton.

The Scot, who was ninth fastest in the weekend’s first practice session but just 20th in the second session, qualified his Toyota Corolla down in 15th on Saturday afternoon, almost a second off the pace, after struggling to set his car up to suit the track’s unique surface.

In race one, Butcher progressed up four places on the opening lap to claim 11th, where he sat for much of the race, although he gained another position on lap 13 to move into tenth.

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However, a broken damper then cost him a place in the closing stages and he took the finish in 11th.

Again making progress early in race two, Butcher was up to eighth before contact with a rival damaged his suspension and he slumped to 13th by the end.

The lack of time between races limited the Speedworks Motorsport team’s ability to rectify the issue for race three, and Butcher had to struggle on to a tenth place finish – marking the Scot’s worst weekend in the championship since Croft last year.

“Thruxton is a unique circuit; it’s got a very distinct surface and is really fast and bumpy, so you need a unique set-up to tackle it,” explained Butcher, who has now fallen to ninth in the drivers’ standings, 74 points from the top of the table.

“The track had changed quite a lot since the test there back in April, meaning the balance of the Corolla was a bit different and that made Saturday a tough day at the office.

“The car felt very nice and comfortable to drive, but round Thruxton, that isn’t what you want; you need something much more ‘edgy’ through the quick stuff to really get the most out of the lap, whereas I think our set-up was just too safe.

“That left us down in the middle of the pack in qualifying, which clearly wasn’t where we wanted to be, and we had a long night trying to figure out where we could make improvements.

“The team did a fantastic job with the changes and in race one, the Corolla felt great and we managed to move up into the top ten.

“Things were looking pretty positive and it felt like the race was coming to us – we were in the mix and in a position to potentially challenge the cars in front – but in the closing stages, I could feel the damper starting to go. I had to limp home over the final lap and that cost us some ground, which was a real shame.

“In race two, a bit of contact early on knocked the suspension geometry slightly out and the car went from feeling really good to suddenly having huge amounts of understeer.

“With the limited turnaround time, we couldn’t fully rectify the situation before race three which meant we carried the problem over and struggled in that one too, which was obviously frustrating.

“Still, despite all the challenges, we came away with three points finishes, gathered a lot of information and we get another crack at Thruxton later in the year, when we will take all the lessons we’ve learned, come back stronger and really attack the weekend from the outset.”

Despite his troubles, Team Principal Christian Dick praised Butcher’s efforts during the weekend.

“Motorsport – and the BTCC in particular – is all about highs and lows, and after the disappointment of our difficult start to the season at Donington Park followed by the satisfaction of Rory’s podium finish at Brands Hatch, Thruxton was a frustrating weekend,” said Dick.

“Set-up issues were the root cause of our struggles on Saturday, and when you start down the field, you are always going to be at risk of the kind of incidents that cost both drivers better results on race day.

“There’s no question that Rory could have been looking at a significantly stronger points haul had it not been for the broken damper in race one and the contact in race two that upset the car’s geometry and restricted his pace, putting him on the back foot again for race three.

“His racecraft as ever was first-rate, and to mitigate the situation as successfully as he did is testament to how well he performed and his ability to ‘drive around’ problems, which is a hallmark of the very best in this business.”

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