Debut silverware for Rory Butcher
Debutant and home hero Rory Butcher enjoyed a strong start to his Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship career at Knockhill, securing Jack Sears Trophy honours and sealing two of Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Duo’s three top ten finishes over a tumultuous weekend’s racing for the Wrotham-based outfit.
The Motorbase-run outfit looked to extend its Independents’ lead at the Scottish circuit though an early retirement for Mat Jackson derailed the squad’s plans, before a spirited fight back from the Mat Jackson, Martin Depper, and new boy, home hero Rory Butcher salvaged five points-scoring finishes to help keep the Independent Champions’ hopes of retaining the title alive.
Starting in very wet conditions, qualifying saw Jackson in second for over half of the session before a sudden change in track conditions saw the grid scramble across to slicks. Unluckily – in spite of briefly taking provisional pole – Jackson was caught on the wrong side of the tumbling times in the closing minutes and slipped back to 12th, ahead of team-mates Butcher in 25th and Depper in 31st.
Sunday’s opening bout was a difficult one – Jackson suffered a mechanical issue during the warm-up lap and was forced to watch the race from the pits whilst his Motorbase crew raced to repair the stricken machine. Butcher survived his maiden BTCC run relatively unscathed after being forced off-track on lap 15. The move cost him three places, but the 30-year-old did well to recover back to 25th whilst laden with 45kg of late entry ballast. Depper followed in 27th.
A first corner melee enforced a restart in race two. Butcher and Depper both got caught up in the incident with the majority of the grid having to take evasive action. Butcher’s number six Focus picked up damage but the extended red flag period allowed the team to complete repairs and the Scotsman re-joined for the restart.
Ballast-free and running on the soft tyre, Butcher delivered a sterling drive – charging through the pack as the laps unfolded, leading the way for team-mate Depper who followed the Fifer as the pair carved their way up the order. Butcher eventually came home a creditable tenth in only his second outing in the BTCC. Depper also tallied good points with 12th spot. Jackson’s race-craft saw the Warwickshireman make up 14 places to take 17th at the chequered flag.
The fairytale ending looked to be on for Butcher in his own back-yard when he lined up second for the finale. His initiation continued apace, with the Scotsman experiencing the full force of the fierce door-to-door racing that the championship is famed for – including a memorable duel with reigning champion, and brother-in-law, Gordon Shedden. Butcher dug deep and after losing places in the opening laps, battled hard to take ninth at the flag.
Butcher’s brace of top ten finishes earned him the Jack Sears Trophy honours as the highest-scoring rookie from the weekend – no mean feat on his maiden outing.
The final race of the day saw Jackson’s best finish of the weekend, seventh. Another solid performance from Depper was also rewarded with 12th – his second points finish of an encouraging meeting.
This left Team Shredded Wheat Racing with Duo second in the Independent Teams’ Standings, just 10 points shy of current leaders Speedworks Motorsport– but now having moved up into sixth in the overall Teams’ Championship standings. Despite a difficult weekend, Mat Jackson retains second in the Independent Drivers’ standings and eighth in the overall championship.
“Coming into my first BTCC weekend in a brand new car, there’s no way I would have expected to come away with two top ten finishes!” said Butcher. “We had good pace in practice but then coming through, we didn’t really get the best out of qualifying.
“I got beaten up quite a bit in race one which was an eye-opener! I managed to get my elbows out and fight my way into the top ten in race two which got us on to the front row and it was awesome racing with all the guys at the front, especially my brother-in-law Gordon [Shedden].
“I think this weekend has been amazing considering that the car has just been built. The guys have put in an amazing amount of effort. We only shook the car down for the first time on Wednesday and survived all three races and to come away with some points and 100 percent finishing record this weekend is mega.
“Massive thanks to David [Bartrum], Alex from DUO and the guys at Shredded Wheat for giving me this opportunity. Also to the fans for being so good and showing so much support for me this weekend, it definitely fired me up!”