Toyota GAZOO Racing UK reveals expanded BTCC line-up
Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship front-runner Toyota GAZOO Racing UK will head into the 2023 campaign in the country’s premier motor racing series with an expanded driver line-up, a potent and proven Toyota-derived engine – and its sights firmly focussed on the top of the podium.
Rory Butcher reached the highest step of the rostrum at Silverstone last September – one of nine top-three results for the Scot on his way to a career-best-equalling fifth in the standings. Approaching his third consecutive campaign behind the wheel of Toyota GAZOO Racing UK’s British-built Corolla GR Sport, the 36-year-old – a former BTCC Independents’ Champion and Jack Sears Trophy winner – is inarguably one of the form drivers in the field, having signed off last season with five podium appearances from the final six starts.
Ricky Collard is similarly back for more. The 26-year-old finished inside the points in half of the races in 2022, as he rejoined the fray following three seasons away from the famous cut-and-thrust of BTCC competition. Having made significant progress during the course of the campaign, the third-generation racer is bidding to build upon that momentum over the coming months.
For the first time, the Speedworks Motorsport-run outfit will enter three cars, with George Gamble – a standout rookie during the 2022 campaign – coming on board for his sophomore season in the championship. The Nottingham racer stunned observers by ascending the podium in only his second time out and going on to claim a maiden victory at Knockhill last summer – results he is hoping to consolidate with the benefit of a year’s experience now under his belt.
Officially unveiled at Toyota Motor Manufacturing UK (TMUK) in Burnaston and sporting new sponsorship from vehicle detailing specialist Car Gods, the team’s trio of eye-catching Corollas will be powered for the first time by a Toyota-derived engine, tuned to BTCC-competition spec by Neil Brown Engineering – another vital piece of the puzzle as Toyota GAZOO Racing UK aims to clinch the most coveted crown in British motorsport.
The 2023 BTCC campaign will get underway at Donington Park in Leicestershire on 23/24 April. All of the action season-long will be broadcast live and in high-definition on ITV4.
“It’s fair to say we’re all extremely excited ahead of the new season,” said Team Principal Christian Dick. “It’s a significant challenge to expand from two cars to three, but at the same time, having three sets of data to cross-reference should allow us to make progress faster than we’ve ever done before. The new engine is also a key factor. The TOCA unit has played an important role in our success down the years in the BTCC, but to take the final step and really fight for the championship, we needed control over all elements of the package – and that is what we now have.
“On the driver front, Rory is a class act who is more than ready to mount a consistent title challenge, while Ricky can focus on turning the promise he displayed in 2022 into some really strong results. As to George, he caught our attention early on last year – it takes a pretty special talent to win a race as a rookie in the BTCC – and while his surname might be Gamble, we’re confident that his signing will prove to be no risk at all.”
“I feel like I’m going into 2023 in the best shape so far, not just in terms of the updates brought to the Corolla but also in terms of the people I have around me,” added Butcher. “It’s great to have that continuity of team and car for the third year in a row, and having ended last season so strongly, I really want to pick up from where we left off and be right in the mix and gunning for glory from the outset. Ricky and George are both top drivers and real assets to the team, and I’m looking forward to working closely with the pair of them to push this whole project forward.”
“It’s no secret that some tough times last year made me seriously question my future in racing and whether or not I should carry on,” admitted Collard, “but there were also a lot of positives and after talking very openly and honestly with Christian [Dick] and John [Gilbert – Speedworks Managing Director] over the winter, I realised I wanted to give this my very best shot in a competitive package, which is what I believe we’ve got. The Corolla clearly has great potential and I really appreciate all the hard work that Toyota (GB) are putting in. The future looks very bright for this team, and I absolutely want to be a part of that.”
“Joining Toyota GAZOO Racing UK is a mega opportunity for me in only my second year in the championship,” concluded Gamble. “To be associated with one of the world’s leading manufacturers – which is successful in pretty much everything it turns its hand to – is massive, and I think I’m in a really good position. It takes a season to properly acclimatise to the BTCC because it’s just so different to any other series and the racing is incredibly hard, but now I know much more what to expect, I can hopefully hit the ground running. There’s tremendous motivation inside this team; everybody really wants to win, and it’s great to be in such a competitive environment. I’m really excited.”