Rory Butcher is hoping that he can use the knowledge gained in a strong end to last year’s British Touring Car Championship visit to Knockhill to ensure that he starts this weekend’s second half of the season on a strong footing.
Butcher’s visit to his home circuit in 2021 didn’t go according to plan when, despite qualifying inside the top ten and taking ninth in race one, contact in race two saw him fail to finish and start from the back in race three.
But Butcher put in a determined drive and posted the fastest lap of the race with a setup that clearly suited his Toyota Corolla in race trim.
So far in 2022, the Scot has secured three podium finishes en route to sixth overall in the drivers’ standings thus far.
Butcher is now eager to get the second half of the season underway with the championship’s annual visit north of the border.
“We’ve obviously had a bit of a break from the BTCC over the past few weeks, but I’ve still had plenty going on,” said Butcher, who has claimed two of his nine BTCC wins at Knockhill.
“There was the Goodyear tyre test earlier this month, and then I raced a classic Porsche at Snetterton so it’s been a nice combination of seat time and downtime and as much as I feel refreshed, I’m definitely ready to go again.
“For me, there could be no better place to begin the second half of the season than Knockhill. I absolutely love competing there – it just feels so different to every other event on the calendar.
“The BTCC only travels to Scotland once a year, and the fans embrace it with a passion. As a driver, that phenomenal support gives you such a lift and really helps you to extract that final tenth-of-a-second.
“The track itself poses a unique challenge; the first sector is really undulating, and from Duffus Dip, you don’t stop turning until you exit the chicane, which you approach completely blind at over 100mph!
“It’s just a very busy lap that tends to produce exciting racing in an amazing amphitheatre-like setting.
“We left Knockhill last year feeling we’d got the Corolla into a really strong place. We were flying in the final race so I’m very hopeful that by adopting that set-up as a starting point this time around, we can be fast from the outset.
“There’s naturally more expectation and pressure on my shoulders than when we go to other circuits, but it’s a track I know well and I want to come away smiling and with a big haul of points. If that includes a trophy or two, all the better…”
Toyota Gazoo Racing UK Team Principal Christian Dick is hoping that the BTCC’s first visit of the hybrid era will result in a more favourable situation for front-wheel drive cars such as the Corolla.
“It’s fair to say it was a pretty mixed first half of the season for us, with some good results and encouraging performances, but also too many occasions when – for whatever reason – we didn’t fulfil our potential,” said Dick.
“We know we have all the ingredients we need to succeed – the Toyota is a proven race-winning car, Rory is a proven race-winning driver and Ricky [Collard] is one of the most promising young talents around – and over the last few weeks, we have been working hard to slot all the missing pieces of the puzzle into place.
“Knockhill has been a good track for us in the past – we’ve won there with the Avensis and finished on the podium with the Corolla – and while rear wheel-drive cars do probably still have a slight advantage, particularly in terms of traction exiting the first-gear hairpin onto the start/finish straight, the difference has been less noticeable in recent years and we’re definitely up for a fight!
“We always receive a warm welcome from the knowledgeable and enthusiastic Scottish fans, and their proximity to the action creates an incredible atmosphere – so let’s hope we can put on a fantastic show for them all this weekend.”