BUTEL: “I FEEL CONFIDENT OF A STRONG YEAR ON TRACK”
Jersey racer Jack Butel endured challenging conditions on track at Thruxton, securing three solid race finishes as his sophomore season in the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship kicked into gear.
The season opener marked Butel’s EXCELR8 with TradePriceCars.com debut after a move to the Hyundai outfit over the winter, with the 25-year-old looking to build on an encouraging pre-season testing programme with his new team.
Keen to try and make as much progress as possible across the weekend – with the ultimate goal of fighting towards the points – Butel’s task was made all the more difficult on Saturday when wet weather greeted the drivers for free practice.
Sampling Thruxton for the first time in the Hyundai, Butel stayed out of trouble in the two 40-minute sessions and headed into qualifying looking to try and push towards the top 20.
As it was, his switch to slick tyres on a drying track came too late in the session, restricting him to 28th place on the grid, but Butel was bolstered by the confidence that there was more time to come on race day.
Butel confirmed this during the opening race of the weekend, coming through the initial lap unscathed having already worked his way up to 23rd.
Although he would then lose a few places after an early safety car period, the Hyundai driver kept his focus on the job at hand, getting quicker as the race wore on and making up places through the final laps to eventually cross the line 21st.
Avoiding an incident at the start of race two that led to the action being halted, Butel wasted little time in getting into the top 20 when racing resumed. Faced with increasing understeer throughout the encounter, the #96 machine was still able to post its fastest lap in the closing stages and Butel was rewarded with 19th place after holding off the Toyota of Sam Smelt.
The rain returned prior to the start of race three, with Butel among the drivers to make the switch to wet tyres rather than gamble on slicks. Having lost places in the melee of the opening lap, he got his head down and was soon picking off rivals ahead as he worked his way back towards the top 20.
While the circuit would start to dry and conditions began to favour those drivers who had gone with slick rubber, the rain returned in the closing laps and Butel took full advantage – getting back up to 19th by the finish and securing another top 20 result from the weekend.
Although unable to break into the overall points, a triple score among the Independent class drivers leaves Butel 13th in the Independents’ Standings, while he holds fourth in the Jack Sears Trophy; an award only open to those drivers without an overall BTCC podium to their name.
“Considering the weather conditions we faced, I think it was a good weekend to start the season, and it’s really encouraging to have picked up a pair of top 20 finishes on my first weekend in the Hyundai,” Butel reflected.
“Saturday was tough with the weather and, in qualifying, we just made the call to switch to slick tyres a little bit too late. There were seven minutes or so left when I swapped from wets and there just wasn’t enough time to get heat into the tyres, so we didn’t really qualify where we should have done.
“In race one, in the dry, I felt the pace was really good and I was quite consistent which meant I could make up places and start to work forwards. We made a few changes to the set-up for race two but ended up with understeer that meant the car was a bit of a handful, although I still managed to improve my result.
“With five minutes to go to race three it was a tough call on which way to go with the tyres, but I think we made the right decision to stick with wets. I just have to hold my hands up as I pushed a bit too hard too early and cooked the tyres, which meant they weren’t at their best when the conditions worsened towards the end.
“It’s all part of the learning process but I’m pleased with the way the weekend has gone, and the team is also happy which is important. I feel confident going to Snetterton next because I’ve already been able to test there, and although we have work to do, the pace was encouraging and we know we have a solid base to start from.
“Huge thank you to all the sponsors who are supporting me this season, and after this weekend, I feel even more confident of a strong year on track.”
Butel and team-mate Rick Parfitt will be next on track at Snetterton on 12/13 June, as the pair aim to make EXCELR8 with TradePriceCars.com proud at the squad’s local circuit.