Toyota’s Rory Butcher was pleased to leave his home round of the British Touring Car Championship with a podium finish to his name, after suffering from straight-line speed issues early in the weekend.
Butcher had struggled for top end speed in free practice, including ending up just 28th and 27th quickest in the second practice speed trap figures, although he was nevertheless tenth fastest in the session.
In qualifying the Scot put his Toyota Corolla in seventh on the grid for race one after small gains were made in the speed traps.
Race day saw steady progress for Butcher, who finished race one where he started in eighth before going on to claim sixth in race two, following passes on Goerge Gamble, Dan Cammish (who he initially lost out to at the start) and Stephen Jelley.
That gave Butcher a front-row starting position for the final race of the day, alongside the BMW of Gamble.
Although initially able to keep pace with the rear-wheel drive car of Gamble, Butcher soon fell back when he came under intense pressure from Jake Hill and Colin Turkington, ultimately losing second to Hill as he ran out of hybrid boost and had to defend stoically from Turkington thereafter.
“The great thing about the BTCC is that even after a challenging weekend, the reversed grid gives you a chance to turn things around and come away with a decent result,” reflected Butcher.
“We had some issues with straight-line speed in free practice, but the guys worked flat-out between sessions to resolve that and the Toyota was back on-song for qualifying, when I felt we did a solid job to line up seventh.
“I then struggled a bit in race one, but we kept making set-up tweaks throughout the day that yielded improvements, and we definitely found something for race two.
“The car just came alive, and I could feel the difference straightaway – I was able to attack and make up places, which subsequently put us in a good position for the reversed grid draw.
“I gave George a hard time for as long as I could in race three, but with him being strong just where he needed to be, it was difficult to make inroads and I could never get a proper look-in.
“The Corolla was pretty hooked-up and I really enjoyed driving it, but we lost a bit of speed towards the end as the tyres dropped off and as soon as Colin latched onto my tail, George was able to get away.
“Over the last five laps, I had no hybrid so I had to dig really deep to try to hang on with a quadruple champion and the pole-sitter filling my mirrors – that was anything but easy!
“I gave it everything, and it always tastes extra-sweet to finish on the podium in front of your home crowd, especially as it might be the only event some of my family, friends and sponsors get to attend all season.
“Ultimately, this trophy is for the team – they really did pull out all the stops, so it was nice to reward them with some silverware.”
Speedworks Motorsport Team Principal Christian Dick believes that the team is now starting to build some momentum following Butcher’s third meeting in a row on the podium and a trio of points finishes for Ricky Collard.
“We ended the first half of the season with podium finishes at Oulton Park and Croft, and we’ve begun the second half of the season on the podium, too – it feels like we’re really establishing a little bit of momentum now,” said Dick.
“It’s never easy to go to Knockhill as a front wheel-drive team and take the fight to the rear wheel-drive cars because they clearly still have an advantage there, but the Corolla’s nimble and agile chassis makes it well-suited to the circuit’s tight-and-twisty nature and that was reflected in our performance at the weekend.
“After qualifying well as the second-highest front wheel-drive car, Rory fought hard in race one despite not being entirely happy with his set-up – and once we had refined that a bit more for race two, he was able to really push on.
“He produced a fantastic show for the home crowd, and his podium in race three was tremendously well-deserved for a determined defence against some palpably quicker rear wheel-drive rivals.”