High hopes for Snetterton after Toyota’s Brands Hatch promise
One way or another, Snetterton has been a memorable hunting ground for Toyota Gazoo Racing UK in the British Touring Car Championship – and the Speedworks Motorsport-run outfit is hoping to make more happy memories in Norfolk when the UK’s premier motor racing series returns there this weekend (20/21 May).
Having taken a significant step forward just over a week ago at Brands Hatch, the team is now bidding to up the ante again at a track that could scarcely be more different.
At almost three miles in length, Snetterton’s ‘300’ layout is more than twice as long as Brands’ short Indy loop, and it was where the British-built Toyota Corolla GR Sport achieved its maiden BTCC pole position in only its sixth qualifying session in 2019. The following day, that advantage was converted into a lights-to-flag victory, and two years later at the same circuit, Scotsman Rory Butcher piloted the rapid Japanese hatchback to his first top three finish for Toyota Gazoo Racing UK.
The 36-year-old Kirkcaldy native – a former Independents’ Champion and Jack Sears Trophy winner – secured the second of his ten BTCC triumphs to-date at Snetterton four years ago, while Ricky Collard is a multiple race-winner and podium-visitor there in the TOCA support series.
The Surrey-born star handled the intense heat in Norfolk last summer to tally his highest score of the season courtesy of a brace of top six results. He was denied a breakthrough win at Brands Indy earlier this month after picking up a track limits penalty, but his stellar performance leaves the 26-year-old brimful of confidence.
George Gamble is also showing a fine turn of-speed during his sophomore campaign in the BTCC – his first in front wheel-drive machinery. The Nottinghamshire racer was a rostrum-finisher at Snetterton in both Ginetta Juniors and the Ginetta GT5 Challenge, and has impressed with his charges through the field behind the wheel of the Corolla.
Following Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session at 15:40 – streamed on ITV Sport’s YouTube channel – every moment of Sunday’s doorhandle-to-doorhandle action will be broadcast live and in high-definition on ITV4, beginning at 10:45.
Christian Dick, Team Principal, Toyota Gazoo Racing UK, said:
“Notwithstanding the disappointment of what happened at the end, we left Brands Hatch feeling very optimistic that we are on the right path. All three drivers are working very well together, and the changes we made between Donington Park and Brands clearly paid off as we were much more competitive and, as I say, should have come out of the weekend with a lot more than we ultimately did.
“We are going to Snetterton in a very positive frame of mind, confident in the knowledge that we have yet to fulfil our potential this season and that we are consistently improving. All of our drivers have shone at the circuit in the past – last year, indeed, it was where Ricky arguably came of age as a touring car driver, and he is continuing to get better all the time. What we need more than anything is a clean, trouble-free weekend; if we get that, I see no reason why we shouldn’t be right in the mix.”
Rory Butcher, Driver, Toyota Gazoo Racing UK, said:
“We definitely took a step forward at Brands Hatch. We were closer to the sharp end than we had been at Donington Park – had Lady Luck been on our side in the final race, we could well have come away with all three cars finishing inside the top five – and while we’re still not quite where we want to be, we know the areas in which we need to improve and everybody has been pushing super-hard behind-the-scenes in order to do so.
“I’m confident that will see us edge a bit nearer again at Snetterton, which is a very different kind of challenge to Brands Indy. Despite not being one of my favourite circuits on the calendar, it’s somewhere I usually go well and it holds happy memories as the scene of my first podium for Toyota Gazoo Racing UK a couple of years ago. If we can kick-start our season with a similar result this weekend – if not even better – that would be a great way to reward the team for everybody’s hard work.”
Ricky Collard, Driver, Toyota Gazoo Racing UK, said:
“It would have been very easy for us to let our heads drop after race three at Brands Hatch, but it’s characteristic of the spirit inside this team that we came away not so much ruing what might have been as looking ahead to replicating that form. The reversed grid may have played in our favour, but there was no luck involved at all in our performance – we proved we have the pace to fight up at the front and to win, and that gives us all tremendous encouragement.
“Snetterton is a tough one to predict. Parts of the lap are all about outright power – and we know we still have some work to do to improve our straight-line speed – but you also need a good chassis, which is very much one of the Corolla’s strengths. So let’s wait to see how we shape up, but the most important thing is that we’re clearly moving in the right direction, and I’m hopeful we can maintain that momentum this weekend.”
George Gamble, Driver, Toyota Gazoo Racing UK, said:
“I enjoy going to Snetterton. It’s obviously very different to Brands Hatch Indy – it’s fast-paced, smooth and flowing and somewhere you can really stretch the legs of the car. I’ve never been there before in front wheel-drive, but I’m getting more comfortable in the Corolla every time out so I’m really looking forward to it.
“Hopefully we can have a completely dry weekend to enable us to build upon the progress we’re making. The mixed weather so far this season has made it difficult to learn as much as we’d have liked, and from my point-of-view, trying to adapt to front wheel-drive, I just want consistent conditions.
“Our race pace on Sundays has been great and we’ve been able to come through the pack well, but we need to perfect our single-lap form to set ourselves up better. If we can start further up the field, we will make our life easier, so the aim for Snetterton is to qualify inside the top ten and then push on from there.”