A NEW HOME HERO IN TOWN
The Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship arrives at its most northern point this weekend as the UK’s best motorsport series speeds into the loveable Knockhill circuit.
The shortest circuit on the calendar is also often one of the most entertaining with 25 cars set to go bumper-to-bumper around the 1.27-mile rollercoaster ride.
Another aspect that usually makes the Knockhill weekend so spectacular is the hugely knowledgeable and partisan crowd that line the banks of the undulating venue, but this is 2020 and the unfortunate circumstances surrounding behind-closed-doors sporting events continues here this weekend.
The local crowd has always backed all BTCC drivers and teams with passion and support, but often enjoyed the sideshow of one of their own going for a title.
During the 1980s and 90s it was often John Cleland flying that Scottish flag with pride – winning two BTCC titles along the way – and then of course Gordon Shedden was roared on to his fantastic three BTCC crowns.
But now there is a new man in town and at this turn of a new decade, Rory Butcher is Scotland’s latest championship hope.
The likeable and charming Motorbase Performance driver is as down to earth as they come, but inside there is a steely and determined high-class racing driver.
Butcher joined the series as a well-known and experienced GT racer but, as ever, the BTCC requires a certain style that often needs refining.
A BTCC debut at Knockhill in 2017 was followed by a first full campaign a year later. It was last season, however, that Rory made a real breakthrough as he competed for the overall title and went on to win the Independents’ trophy.
An off-season move to Motorbase Performance caught many by surprise but Butcher was convinced he was right to return to his old stomping ground, having raced with the team previously.
His conviction was vindicated as soon as he completed his first test in the all-new Ford Focus and he’s never looked back.
One win and three further podiums in the opening nine races have underlined his credentials as a serious 2020 title contender, and now the home hero will be hoping for more glory at his local track following on from victory here last season.
“The pressure is even higher at home,” said the 33-year-old. “I will definitely try and ride that wave of pressure and turn it into a positive energy. I can’t wait to get to my home circuit.
“I know the place like the back of my hand. I’m really excited to see how this new car will handle the Knockhill circuit.”
Last time out, at Oulton Park, Rory scored a second successive pole position and followed that up with a first victory for the Motorbase-built 2020 Ford when on-the-road winner – Josh Cook – was excluded from the result after his car failed a post-race ride height check.
“It was the weekend that we really needed,” he concluded. “We got another pole position which was such a great feeling.
“We will inherit the points and take the trophy for race one but I’m eager to get that first win in this car across the line. It’s unfinished business.”
If Rory is to win this year’s championship, however, then he – like everyone else chasing the crown – will have to overthrow reigning champion Colin Turkington.
The Team BMW star leads the standings by 19 points – from Laser Tools Racing’s Ash Sutton – with the Northern Irishman enjoying a stellar and consistent start to the 2020 campaign.
Even when Turkington doesn’t quite have the pace to challenge for victory, the record-equalling BTCC supremo ensures he picks up the maximum points that his machinery is capable of.
This is something that Butcher, as well as Honda’s Dan Cammish and Toyota’s Tom Ingram, will need to improve on – with all three suffering mechanical woes at some point during the season so far.
Uncertainties and unknowns in the BTCC are endless, which is the reason why the series simply is the best show in town.
There’s one thing for certain: 25 of the world’s best tin top drivers will be battling it out for honours at Knockhill this weekend. We’re sorry that our fans will not be able to enjoy the action trackside, but please join us live on ITV2 from 1040, because, if the season so far is anything to go by, entertainment is guaranteed.