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Rory Butcher ends first half of the season ‘on a high’ after Croft podium

Rory Butcher was pleased to score a brace of top seven finishes followed by a podium in the British Touring Car Championship races at Croft, meaning the Toyota driver ends the first half of the season ‘on a high’.

Having been inside the top three in practice, Butcher had been disappointed to only qualify his Toyota Corolla in 11th for the opening race, a few small mistakes leaving the Scot just under four tenths of a second off pole position.

He sought to right that in the opening race, gaining four places on the opening lap at the first sequence of corners, before the race settled into a rhythm which left Butcher taking the chequered flag in seventh.

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The 35-year-old followed that up with another seventh in race two, before being randomly drawn onto sixth on the partially reversed grid for the final race of the day.

A strong opening lap, albeit with a cut of the first chicane in avoidance of contact with another car, saw Butcher moved up to third on the first lap.

Despite trying to pass Josh Cook’s Honda on lap two, Butcher couldn’t make the move stick and he ultimately had to settle for third – nonetheless keeping him in the title fight as he moves up to sixth overall and sits 58 points from the top of the drivers’ championship standings.

“Croft is a circuit of two halves that require different attributes from the car,” said Butcher. “You really have to focus on traction in the slow-speed sections, but through the high-speed middle sector of the lap, you need a car that is stable and rotates well to enable you to attack.

“Right from the outset, the Corolla felt very strong, but having shown so much potential in free practice, we were really deflated after qualifying.

“I didn’t manage to hook it up and when the times are so close, if you leave even just a tenth-of-a-second on the table, it’s going to cost you.

“Starting down in 11th, it was all about chipping away, making up places where we could and bagging the points.

“I had no choice but to take a few risks in race one – since it’s not easy to overtake at Croft, you really need to make the most of the first lap – and we emerged from Turn Two in seventh.

“I established a large gap behind and was quite happy following Sutton and looking for opportunities, but then the safety car came out and from that point on, I had to keep one eye in my mirrors as well, which spoiled our momentum, so I concentrated on bringing it home.

“That put us in amongst all the really quick guys in race two, while the reversed grid race as always shook everything up a bit.

“Starting sixth, the podium was my goal and it was brilliant to achieve that. I had a little go at Josh [Cook] into Tower early on; I’d been thinking about it for a couple of laps, but he’s pretty smart and he just let it happen before getting the cutback on the exit.

“After that, the race levelled out a bit, and I also had [Stephen] Jelley on my tail putting the pressure on, so I had to defend from him at the same time.

“We kept on pushing right to the end and overall, I was really pleased with the consistency we showed again with another three solid finishes.

“To score such good points and spray some champagne after a tough qualifying was a fantastic effort by the whole team, and means we end the first half of the season on a high.”

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