What a stellar BTCC racing weekend! The Toyota Gazoo Racing UK team were out in force at Brands Hatch on the 6th & 7th May. Drivers George Gamble, Ricky Collard & Rory Butcher had a great showing with Ricky producing the performance of his career to date at Brands hatch. He did this by pipping three-time title-winner Ash Sutton to the chequered flag in the final race. Although a penalty cost him noteworthy breakthrough victory, the pace displayed by Toyota Gazoo Racing UK showed that the team will be a major force over the remainder of the campaign.
Rory Butcher, who had led the team for the Speed-works Motorsport-run outfit in free practice around brands short Indy loop. Topping the timesheets in FP2 driving his authentic British built Toyota Corolla GR Sport. Butcher endured and survived many nervous moments during a wet and wild qualifying session and finished with a 5th spot amongst 27 high calibre contenders for Sunday’s curtain raising contest.
The former BTCC Independents title holder and Jack Sears trophy winner Butcher advanced to an impressive 6th
spot in Race two with Collard not far behind and would have finished higher had it not been for being tagged in the last corner on the final lap dropping him to 9th
with Gamble finishing in the middle of the pair placing himself in 8th
The trio of Gamble, Butcher and Collard were evenly matched once again in this weekend’s finale. With Collard beginning in second, Gamble in third and Butcher in sixth. In front of a jam-packed capacity crowd featuring live ITV4 television coverage, Collard aimed for the lead around the outside of the paddock hill bend when the starting lights went out.
Butcher and Gamble had impressive showings throughout the event. They were able to run inside the top 5 early on and even engaging in a wheel-to-wheel duel at one stage. Unfortunately, the Nottinghamshire native obliged to pit stop for a tyre change after picking up a puncture while Butcher was forced out due to an engine issue.
All three racers were triumphant in their performances over the course of the weekend. Collard was able to finish with a 14th Place finish and George Gamble finishing with a 16th place finish.
“The more laps I’m doing in the Corolla, the more comfortable I am in the car and in front wheel-drive. Everything felt good in free practice, with all three of us very close on the timesheets, but qualifying was really hard. They were the worst conditions I’d ever driven in round Brands Hatch.
“Thankfully, the first couple of races went much better – I was really happy with both of them – and then we were just unlucky with the puncture in race three. That was a shame, because we were fast again, but overall, we made mega progress during what was only my first proper day in the car in the dry. We’re definitely getting quicker and getting to grips with the new engine now, so things are looking good.”
“I was determined to put on a really good show for the fans in race three and give it absolutely everything, and I certainly did that. I raced my heart out – I’d say it was one of the best drives of my career.
“I’ve competed against Ash [Sutton] for years, and I have huge respect for him. We’re both hungry
and want to win and we raced hard, clean and fair. He’s world-class and a proper touring car driver, and we were side-by-side for about half of the final lap. He gave me a couple of ‘love taps’ and as soon as I realised he was alongside, I left him space. I got the switchback, we leant on each other and there was a bit of door-banging. That was great for the fans, and I think they were totally robbed by what happened afterwards.
“The Speedworks team is like a big family and there were a few tears in the garage, but at the end of the day, we win together, and we lose together – and I guarantee we will come back fighting!”
“We entered Brands Hatch with a different mindset and approach following the frustration of Donington Park. I had a good feeling straight out-of-the-box, but the conditions in qualifying were horrendous. There were streams of water running across the track and we were just aquaplaning everywhere. It was a real balance between pushing hard and restraining yourself so as not to throw it off into the scenery because it was so easy to get it wrong, but we managed to put ourselves in a good position.
“Sunday was then a consistent day and we scored solid points in the first two races, but I don’t feel like I got the most out of the car. I think we missed an opportunity on the soft tyre in race one – we didn’t quite make it work for us and I couldn’t really attack the guys in front. We changed a few things for race two which yielded an improvement, and race three was looking good until the head gasket went. Still, we’re making strides forward and Ricky won a race on the road, which is amazing, so we’ll take the positives and move on to the next one.”
Christian Dick, Team principal:
“The highs and lows of motorsport, I think they call that! First and foremost, I want to congratulate Ricky on an absolutely incredible performance in race three. That was the drive of his life. To keep anybody behind for so long is impressive, but to keep Ash Sutton at bay – and then re-pass him after briefly conceding the lead – was genuinely outstanding. We all feel the pain of losing the win, but Ricky should take tremendous confidence from this and his time will unquestionably come.
“The overall feeling from the weekend was very positive. We’ve taken a clear step forward since Donington Park, and following a topsy-turvy qualifying session, Rory, Ricky and George scored well across races one and two. We were obviously on course for an even better result in the last one, with all three drivers inside the top five until misfortune struck, but we leave with our heads held high and we’ll come back gunning for glory at Snetterton in a fortnight’s time.”
Despite missing out on the win, Collard has nonetheless climbed up into the top ten in the Drivers’ standings in the UK’s premier motor racing series, with the action next set to move on to Snetterton in Norfolk on 20/21 May.