Toyota duo tally triple top-ten double on Speedworks’ home soil
Rory Butcher and Ricky Collard battled to a trio of top-ten finishes apiece for Toyota GAZOO Racing UK in the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship at Oulton Park last weekend (11/12 June), as the Speedworks Motorsport-run squad celebrated a bumper points haul on home turf.
The British-built Toyota Corolla GR Sport proved its pace in qualifying, although neither driver’s session was without drama. After losing his first lap time due to a track limits infringement, Butcher languished at the tail-end of the field as the clock ticked down, but with just seven minutes remaining, the Scot pulled a scintillating lap out of the bag to seal second on the starting grid for race one, while his team-mate would settle for 11th at the conclusion of the session.
In the curtain-raising contest the following day – in front of the live ITV television cameras – Butcher briefly challenged for the lead on the opening lap before settling into second, subsequently having to give best in the closing stages to multiple champions Ash Sutton and Gordon Shedden. Thereafter, he fended off four-time title-winner Colin Turkington to the chequered flag, finding himself elevated to third post-race when Shedden was handed a penalty.
The 35-year-old Kirkcaldy native crossed the line fourth in race two and completed his day’s work with a fifth-place finish from ninth on the grid in the finale, making him the weekend’s second-highest scorer and gaining him two spots to seventh in the Drivers’ standings.
In the sister Corolla, Collard prevailed in a tight tussle with Stephen Jelley, Aiden Moffat and Jake Hill in race one to secure his first top-ten finish for the Northwich-based outfit, replicating that in race two as he ran in the same train as his team-mate throughout.
From third on the partially-reversed grid, the 25-year-old then produced a mature performance in the final outing. Confidently holding his ground, he kept championship leader Josh Cook at bay race-long only for a five-second penalty – due to an out-of-position start – to drop him from third to seventh, dashing his podium dream but nonetheless cementing the team’s best-combined result of the season to date.
“Oulton Park is always a busy and exciting event for us, with family and friends coming along to support,” said Team Principal Christian Dick. “We had some 120 guests last weekend, and it was great to be able to put on such a good show for them all. Race one marked the first time this year that both cars had finished inside the top ten, and to repeat the feat in races two and three in such a tough championship was a superb effort and real credit to every single member of this team.
“Following a few recent issues, we took the precaution of changing Rory’s engine on Friday night, and the guys all worked their socks off to give him a car with which he could qualify on the front row of the grid the next day. He delivered the lap under real pressure after being docked his first time, and to produce that kind of performance in that kind of situation is testament to his cool, calm nature and unflappable approach.
“He then converted that pace into three very strong finishes on Sunday for an extremely healthy points haul, and after suffering some pretty rotten luck since the beginning of the season, it was fantastic to finally see Ricky right up at the pointy end where he belongs as well.
“He was unfortunate not to start further up the grid – which almost certainly cost him an even better set of results – but to tally three consistent and consecutive top-ten finishes represented a big step forward. The way he held his own in race three proved what we’ve known all along – that he has the potential to be a genuine front-runner in the BTCC – and although he didn’t ultimately get to stand up on the podium, he can take a lot of confidence and encouragement away from the weekend.”
“It goes without saying that you always want to score big results and spray some champagne, but sometimes you simply have to bank the points and Oulton Park turned out to be one of those weekends,” reflected Butcher.
“We changed the engine on Friday. We saw something in the data that we weren’t happy with and having also encountered issues in previous events, we decided to make the decision there and then rather than risk something going wrong later on. The Speedworks guys and girls worked super-hard overnight to replace it, and it was nice to keep making progress throughout Saturday.
“When my first lap in qualifying was deleted due to track limits, I had no choice but to give it absolutely everything; we hooked it up and pieced the sectors together and thankfully, the time came. The Corolla felt amazing, and to achieve our best qualifying result of the season so far at the team’s home track was a great reward for everybody’s efforts.
“After that, Sunday was solid rather than spectacular, I would say. We really tried to put pressure on the guys in front and seemed able to do that in the early laps, but we fell away slightly as the races wore on. I could tell quite quickly in the first one that it was going to be tough, as we didn’t really have the pace to stick with Tom [Ingram] in the lead. I drove my heart out, but Dan [Lloyd] and Ash [Sutton] just got the better of me.
“It was a similar story in race two. I got a good start and slotted into second place, but Gordon [Shedden] and Ash were a little bit faster and I ultimately had to concede. Still, we were in the mix and put some more decent points on the board, which is what it’s all about in this game, and race three was then another good run.
“As ever at Oulton, there wasn’t a great deal going on in the way of overtaking. I did my best to make up ground on the first lap, but with everybody at the front of the field fairly evenly matched, it was all a bit follow-my-leader from that stage on. Still, a third straight top-five result was a good way to finish the weekend. It was a real pity for Ricky that such a small error cost him a deserved podium, but his day will come…”
“First and foremost, I’m happy that we finally got through a weekend without any major issues and finished all three races, which earned us a solid haul of points,” said Collard. “Oulton Park is such a cool circuit and one that has always been good for me. As a team, we worked together well and based upon the pace we showed in practice, we were targeting a top-five grid slot – particularly given that qualifying there pretty much conditions where you will finish the first two races.
“Unfortunately, we were just really unlucky [in qualifying] – again! Still, we knew we were quick so we focussed on moving forward on Sunday. Race one wasn’t as straightforward as it probably looked from the outside; it was reasonably busy inside the car after picking up a little bit of damage on the first lap, but the Corolla held up really well.
“Race two was a similarly solid result, and from third on the grid, I went into race three with the aim of ‘sending’ it big style so it was such a shame to pick up a penalty because it could have been a podium finish. I was just out of position by a couple of inches within my grid box, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.
“Nevertheless, to come away with a full house of double top ten finishes was mega for the team at Speedworks’ home track. The Corolla was spot on throughout and Rory has been fantastic in helping me to adapt to the car. We are chipping away and as a package, everything is now beginning to ‘click’ – and that’s really promising for the remainder of the season.”