Homeward Bound: Toyota Gazoo Racing UK eager to maintain momentum at Oulton Park
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK is aiming to sign off the first half of the 2023 British Touring Car Championship campaign with a champagne celebration this weekend (17/18 June), as the team heads to Cheshire’s picturesque and undulating Oulton Park – Speedworks Motorsport’s home soil.
Despite receiving plenty of local support, prior to 2021, Oulton had rarely deigned to smile upon the Northwich-based outfit.
That summer day, however, those fortunes finally changed, as former BTCC Independents’ Champion and Jack Sears Trophy winner Butcher dominated race two behind the wheel of his British-built Toyota Corolla GR Sport to cement his maiden victory for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK – his second success at the track in as many seasons.
The 36-year-old Kirkcaldy native has since added three more wins to his career tally, and 12 months ago at Oulton, he converted a front row grid slot in qualifying into a podium finish and two further top five results.
Collard similarly boasts an impressive résumé around the 2.23-mile circuit, where in 2015, the Surrey-born star claimed the top step of the rostrum in the BTCC-supporting MSA Formula single-seater series.
Gamble has also frequently shone at the track, racing to a podium double during his maiden car racing campaign in the Ginetta Junior Championship in 2011, winning there in the Ginetta GT5 Challenge three years later and then repeating the feat in the fiercely-disputed Porsche Carrera Cup GB in 2019.
Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session will be streamed on ITV Sport’s YouTube channel from 15:30, with every moment of Sunday’s doorhandle-to-doorhandle action to be broadcast live and in high-definition on ITV1 from 1200-1400, before switching to ITV4 from 1400-1815.
Christian Dick, Team Principal, said: “Every race weekend obviously offers the same amount of points, but Oulton Park is always a special one for us, as we receive so much support from friends, family and sponsors. It’s funny – despite being our home track and less than ten miles down the road from the Speedworks workshop, for years, we simply couldn’t catch a break there, but the past couple of seasons have been much better, so the goal has to be to keep that positive momentum going.
“We’ve taken consistent steps forward in recent races, and we know from previous campaigns that the Corolla performs well at Oulton. All three drivers have impressive records there, too – like Thruxton last time out, it’s a circuit that calls for maximum bravery and commitment, and there’s certainly no shortage of that inside the team. We’re looking forward to it!”
Rory Butcher, said: “Oulton Park is one of my favourite circuits on the BTCC calendar. It’s a tremendous challenge to drive and hugely rewarding when you get it right, particularly in qualifying, where you really need to attack the lap. Saturday afternoon is arguably the most crucial moment of the weekend there, since the track is so narrow that overtaking in the races is a real art, so focussing on single-lap speed will be high on the agenda and advancing to the top ten shootout will be key.
“The fast, flowing layout is not only a lot of fun but also favours a well-sorted chassis, which is unquestionably what we have in the Corolla, and we were solidly in the hunt there in both 2021 and 2022. In fact, I’ve finished on the podium at Oulton four times in the past three years, so I’ll be giving it everything I’ve got to try to extend that run this weekend.”
Ricky Collard, said: “It really feels like we’ve begun building some momentum in recent weeks. Thruxton was a very positive weekend in general, and we’re making progress every time out. We know the pace is in the package to push for race wins – we proved that at Brands Hatch last month – so it’s a case of figuring out how to unlock that on a consistent basis, but we’re definitely getting closer.
“I’ve always enjoyed racing at Oulton Park, and it was probably the first circuit where I really began to ‘click’ with the Corolla last year and challenge for strong results. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I don’t want to be fighting for fifth or sixth place anymore – I want to win – and after all the hard work that everybody in the team has put in this season, it’d be amazing to reward the Speedworks guys and girls with a trophy or two at their home track.”
George Gamble, said: “It might sound like page 86 of the racing driver’s book of excuses, but the truth is that for various reasons, we’ve simply been unlucky at every event so far this year. We seem to have good pace on Sundays, but I’m always having to come through from the back, so the aim for Oulton is to qualify further up the grid to put ourselves in the mix a bit more.
“It’s been a good track for me in the past, and being the last weekend before the summer break, it would be nice to have a stronger Saturday, qualify well, come away with good results in the first two races and then try to catch it on the spin for the reversed grid draw. I’m still adapting to front wheel-drive, so I don’t think we’re quite there yet in terms of challenging up at the sharp end in the first two races, but in race three, I think we could.”