RORY BUTCHER Q&A
Ahead of the 2021 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship, Speedworks Motorsport driver Rory Butcher answered a few questions looking back over his BTCC career, discussing his expectations of his new, manufacturer-backed team, and his preparations for the campaign ahead.
The opening round at Thruxton marks quite a milestone as you celebrate your 100th BTCC race, what’s been your favourite moment so far in the championship?
It’s got to be my pole position and race win at Knockhill back in 2019. That was my very first pole, my very first victory and to do it on my home track where there’s added pressure and expectation. It really was an incredible feeling.
With Speedworks Motorsport, you’ll be driving with a Manufacturer team for the first time, what differences do you expect to find from your previous experience with Independent teams?
Having an association with a manufacturer like Toyota from a personal standpoint means a lot and I’m excited to see where the relationship goes. I think the differences that I anticipate in a manufacturer team is just having that extra confidence alongside the backing and investment from Toyota to put towards developments in the car. They know what’s coming around the corner, we’re about to go into the hybrid era in a years’ time and I think it’s important for Toyota and the team to be at the front of the field. Knowing that Toyota is backing the team just gives you that added confidence that the developments are going to be put in place and I’m excited to be part of that process.
Can you tell us about your plans for pre-season testing?
Testing for the season will be starting soon, so we’re going to be trying to get as many test days in as possible. It’s a brand new chassis that I’m driving, which had been built by custom cages and we begin testing at Donington. Then we get a couple of days at Snetterton, we’re going to do Croft, Knockhill and we’ll also be at Silverstone for Season Launch. We’re getting most of the tracks in, in just a short space of time and I’ll be getting to know the Toyota pretty well.
In 2020 you equalled your 2019 overall finish of fifth place but secured 20 more points in three less rounds. Obviously it was a hugely competitive year, how would you in your experience as a driver compare the two years? Were you conscious of the higher level of competition?
2020 was extremely competitive, I gave it my best shot in fighting for the title but fell short in the last few rounds. I think I would say last year I was conscious of there being a kind of divide between maybe the top five and the rest of the field. The ones who were consistently qualifying in the top five and finishing on the podium, I was very aware of who those drivers were. I’ve been in the top five two years on the trot and it’s only my fourth full season coming up. I think every year I’m building confidence and have higher expectations for myself. I’m always trying to find areas to improve in my performance and each season I’ve returned stronger, so I’m eager to build on 2020 and piece together the best 30 races I possibly can, as one thing I’ve learned is that consistency is key. If I do my job right then I’ll be in with a shout of the championship come Brands Hatch in October.
During the first lockdown you had a sim racing set-up as part of your pre-season preparation, have you continued to use this for the 2021 season?
I still use my sim, I’m on it on a daily basis, putting in the practice ahead of the first event. I find it very good training and have partnered up with a company which runs structured simulator sessions. We can simulate qualifying runs, races and do pressure runs where they basically structure a session where I might be on an oversteer setup or understeer. So that’s iZone Performance, based at Silverstone. They’re running like a remote training programme for drivers like myself and it’s quite interesting how that’s helping me ahead of this year.
Obviously the Top Ten Showdown qualifying session at Snetterton didn’t work entirely in your favour, are you looking forward to its return? Do you think you’ll change your approach for the three events which will incorporate it this year?
The Top Ten Showdown qualifying session was really fun at Snetterton. I would say that at one point I felt like I was going to be on pole position, topping the times in the first run, but you know it’s just one of those things. I’m not sure if I would do anything differently, we just ended up going quicker in the second session but it just wasn’t quite good enough in the end, and we secured P4. I think I’ll probably approach it in a similar manner; whoever pulls that lap out of the bag will just be the person who gets it done. I’m looking forward to those three events this year where we’re doing the Top Ten Showdown. It definitely brings a little bit extra to the weekend and I’m sure the fans like it as well, I’ve heard a lot of good feedback myself, so that’s great.