Toyota GAZOO Racing UK targeting trophies at Thruxton
Rory Butcher and Ricky Collard are heading back to the fastest circuit in the country this weekend (27/28 August) with silverware in their sights, as Toyota GAZOO Racing UK prepares to tackle Thruxton’s high-speed challenge for the second time this year in the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship.
With its flat-out sweeping curves and unforgiving, old-school nature, Thruxton is a unique proposition on the BTCC calendar, putting drivers and cars alike to the ultimate test.
Both Butcher and Collard have reached the rostrum at the track in the past, while the Toyota Corolla GR Sport sped to an impressive double victory there in 2020. Not only that, but the British-built hatch still holds the race lap record at Thruxton from the same season.
The Speedworks Motorsport-run outfit endured a troubled weekend at the circuit back in May, but progress made since then sees Butcher and Collard return in confident mood. The 35-year-old Kirkcaldy native – a former BTCC Independents’ Champion and Jack Sears Trophy winner – has ascended the podium in three of the latest four outings, while his 26-year-old team-mate showed some serious pace last time out at Snetterton.
Following Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session at 1525 – broadcast on itv.com/btcc – every moment of Sunday’s doorhandle-to-doorhandle action will be televised live and in high-definition on ITV4, beginning at 1115.
“You always tend to approach Thruxton with a mixture of excitement and apprehension,” said Team Principal Christian Dick. “There’s no other circuit quite like it – it poses a unique challenge from an engineering perspective while, as a driver, it’s tremendously rewarding when you get it right but there’s a very fine line between pushing to the limit and overstepping it.
“We’ve enjoyed success there in the past with the Corolla, and although we didn’t come away with the results we were aiming for earlier this season, that was predominantly due to starting out-of-position – Rory’s pace on race day in particular was much more representative of the car’s true potential.
“For Ricky, Thruxton is obviously home turf and he should take a lot of confidence from his recent performances – he’s unquestionably turned a corner since Oulton Park, and is now capable of fighting at the front every weekend. To be holding his own against the likes of Ash Sutton and Tom Ingram is testament to how much he has matured as a touring car driver this year.
“We’ve found a base set-up for the car that seems to suit him just as much as Rory and they’re working together extremely well, which is helping to drive the whole team forward. There’s a very positive vibe inside the camp right now and it really feels like the best is yet to come this season – hopefully starting this weekend…”
“Thruxton is such a unique track – one that I think pretty much every driver loves going to,” added Butcher. “It’s real seat-of-the-pants stuff, right on the ragged edge and somewhere that calls for maximum commitment – the kind of place where if you put even so much as a wheel out of line, it will bite.
“It’s definitely a confidence circuit, and I’m feeling confident ahead of the weekend. I think we’ll be stronger than we were in May, when we had reasonable pace on race day but not a lot of luck, and we’re going back in a positive frame of mind.
“To have finished on the podium at three very different tracks recently shows that we have got the Corolla into a really good place now, and there’s no reason why that shouldn’t translate to Thruxton as well. It was a shame not to be able to keep our run going at Snetterton due to starting so far down the field because we certainly had the speed in the races – so if we can qualify up at the sharp end this weekend, I’m very optimistic of adding to our silverware collection on Sunday.”
“I always look forward to going to my home circuit,” concluded Collard. “It’s somewhere I’ve been familiar with since first watching my dad race when I was a little kid, and I’ve got some pretty happy memories of competing there myself after beating Lando [Norris] to second place in MSA Formula a few years ago.
“I’m really enjoying driving the Corolla at the moment, and it’ll be a lot of fun to properly push it to its limits at Thruxton – it’s exactly the kind of place that should showcase the Toyota’s strengths. I feel like I’ve taken a genuine step forward lately, and to be heading into the weekend off the back of six-straight points-finishes and my best result of the season last time out gives me a lot of confidence.
“Snetterton was obviously tinged with disappointment at the end, but that’s already in the past and it will only make me even more determined to reach the podium again in front of my family and friends at Thruxton. Let’s have it!”