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RICKY COLLARD JOINS TOYOTA GAZOO RACING UK FOR 2022

Toyota Gazoo Racing UK has completed its 2022 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship driver line-up by signing Ricky Collard to pilot the second of its two Toyota Corollas, with the highly-rated third-generation racer targeting podium finishes ‘at the very least’ on his return to the country’s premier motorsport series.

The name Collard is a familiar one amongst BTCC fans, with Ricky’s father Rob winning 15 races between 2000 and 2019 and claiming Independents’ Cup honours in 2003. He is not the only member of the family to have reached the rostrum in the championship, however, with Ricky deputising for his dad over the final four outings of the 2018 campaign following an accident for Collard Snr at Snetterton.

Immediately demonstrating that touring car talent is in the genes, the younger Collard tallied six points finishes from 11 starts including a podium at Silverstone, where he missed out on securing pole position in qualifying by a scant 0.018s.

Since his eye-catching BTCC cameo three-and-a-half years ago, Collard has predominantly competed in GT circles, contesting his most recent full campaign in the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe in 2019, when he triumphed at Germany’s Nürburgring behind the wheel of an Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3.

That came two years after the Frimley-born ace had sped to class victory around the legendary Nordschleife in the Nürburgring 24 Hours – one of multiple endurance accolades on his impressive career CV alongside a similar success at Spa-Francorchamps where, in 2020, he and his dad made history as the first crew featuring a father and son ever to win the round-the-clock classic’s Pro-Am category.

Indeed, Collard has achieved so much that it is difficult to believe he is still only 25, but having made just sporadic appearances on track over the past two years, he was all set to hang up his helmet at the end of 2022 in favour of a move Down Under. Following a trio of promising test days in the Speedworks Motorsport-run Corolla GR Sport at Donington Park, Knockhill and Croft, those Aussie plans are now indefinitely on ice.

The forthcoming campaign – the first in the BTCC’s eagerly-anticipated Hybrid Era – will get underway on 23/24 April at Donington Park in Leicestershire, home turf for the British-built Corolla, produced barely ten miles up the road at Toyota Motor Manufacturing UK (TMUK) in Burnaston. Every moment of the doorhandle-to-doorhandle action will be broadcast live and in high-definition on ITV4.

“We’re delighted to confirm Ricky alongside Rory [Butcher] in our 2022 line-up,” said Team Principal Christian Dick. “We ran a series of evaluation tests with him over the last week, and by the end, both parties were very keen to sign on the dotted line. He has slotted into the team seamlessly and, having grown up around the BTCC, he knows the championship inside-out so there should be no acclimatisation required from that point of view.

“It was evident watching Ricky as he rose through the ranks that he is a driver of considerable talent and potential, and his performances during his short previous stint in the BTCC in 2018 really turned some heads. It takes a fair degree of skill to qualify on the front row of the grid and finish on the podium in this series – and to do so with only two prior race weekends under his belt was a seriously impressive accomplishment.”

“I’ve been knocking around the BTCC paddock since I was just three years old,” said Collard, “standing at the side of the track watching my dad compete against the likes of Jason Plato, Colin Turkington and Gordon Shedden – so as a series, it has huge personal appeal to me and I’ve made no secret recently of my desire to return. It definitely feels like I have some unfinished business after dipping my toe into the water at the end of 2018, and with my dad no longer racing, it’s almost like I’m now picking up the reins and carrying on the family legacy.

“Last week’s test at Donington was the first time I’d ever driven a front-wheel drive race car, and while we’re clearly not yet where we want to be, my lap times showed that I already feel pretty comfortable in the Toyota. The Corolla is a proven race-winning package, and everybody in the team is doing all they can to help me to get quickly up to speed. I’m getting faster with every lap, and that progression is only going to continue.

“As a former racing driver himself, Christian [Dick] can properly relate to the feedback I’m providing, and Rory [Butcher] has been really helpful too. We had a good relationship even beforehand, and I honestly couldn’t ask for a better team-mate. He has a lot of experience that I can draw upon and learn from, and by working closely together, the aim is to drive the whole team forward.

“There’s a lot of support and love for Toyota amongst BTCC fans, and I can’t wait to meet all the guys and girls at Toyota UK and hopefully do them proud. It’s funny – the only type of car I’ve raced that I haven’t won in is a touring car, so I’m pretty keen to put that statistic to bed and I’ll have 30 chances this year to do so. Despite effectively being a rookie, I’ll be disappointed if I don’t achieve that, and I’m targeting podiums at the very least. I’m certainly going to give this my absolute best shot!”

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