Toyota Gazoo Racing UK is Brands hatch-bound this weekend (7/8 October) for the final thrilling instalment of the 2023 British Touring Car Championship campaign, as Rory Butcher, Ricky Collard and George Gamble strive to sign off the season in style at one of its most legendary venues.
Having already tackled Brands’ short Indy layout back in May – when Collard took the chequered flag first following an epic duel with three-time champion Ash Sutton, only to be denied a popular maiden BTCC triumph by a track limits penalty – the Toyota Gazoo Racing UK trio are now preparing to take on the much longer and more challenging ‘GP’ loop, which played host to Formula 1’s British Grand Prix on no fewer than 12 occasions between 1964 and 1986.
In addition to his heroics behind the wheel of the Burnaston-built Toyota Corolla GR Sport five months ago, 27-year-old Collard reached the rostrum at Brands GP in consecutive campaigns from 2014 to 2016 in the British Formula Ford, MSA Formula and BRDC British F3 single-seater categories.
This year, the Surrey-born star has scored points on all-bar three occasions in the UK’s premier motor racing series, and he is determined to conclude his sophomore season with the Speedworks Motorsport-run outfit with another strong set of results.
Like Collard, former BTCC Independents’ Champion and Jack Sears Trophy winner Butcher has seen victory slip from his grasp at Brands GP, when he picked up a puncture less than three laps from home in 2020. That proved to be the catalyst for a searing charge through the field in the next race, with the 36-year-old Kirkcaldy native – who last weekend contested the Spa Six Hours in a Jaguar E-type – adding a pair of podiums to his career CV in Kent 12 months ago.
In the team’s third Corolla, George Gamble is hoping for a trouble-free run to fulfil the palpable potential he has shown throughout his first season in front wheel-drive machinery. Like his two team-mates, the 27-year-old Nottinghamshire ace boasts an excellent previous record on the ‘GP’ circuit – prevailing there in both the Ginetta GT4 SuperCup and Ginetta GT5 Challenge, and scooping further silverware in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB as he raced up the BTCC support series ladder.
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 ITV4 from 10:45.
Christian Dick, Team Principal, Toyota Gazoo Racing UK, said:
“We can’t wait to get to Brands Hatch. The ‘GP’ circuit should suit us a little bit more than Silverstone did with the package we’ve got at the moment and all three drivers have demonstrated strong form there in the past, so we’re very hopeful of a successful weekend to finish the season.
“We’ve definitely turned a corner in recent events, which has allowed both Rory and Ricky to get back up where they belong – right at the sharp end of the field – with George not far behind in terms of pace. He has been consistently out-of-luck, which has scuppered his chances of achieving the same kind of results, but eight points-scoring finishes from the last ten races proves that his time is unquestionably coming – and why not this weekend?”
Rory Butcher, Driver, Toyota Gazoo Racing UK, said:
“Silverstone was very nearly our most solid weekend of 2023, before the race three shunt got in the way of a punchy opening lap, but things are certainly moving in the right direction now – and after going off the boil a bit during the first part of the year, it’s been so good to jump back in the car recently and feel like the old Rory again.
“The team is doing an incredible job and while there’s still more performance to find, we’re clearly making progress. Brands GP is a circuit I love and the Corolla was super-strong there 12 months ago, so let’s see if we can finish the season with another piece of silverware or two to head off into the winter with a spring in our step.”
Ricky Collard, Driver, Toyota Gazoo Racing UK, said:
“It’s a real privilege to get to drive the ‘GP’ circuit at Brands Hatch. It’s such an awesome old-school challenge – you need to be absolutely on the limit out the back of the lap to really carry the speed from one corner to the next, and it’s immensely rewarding when you get it right.
“We’ve been much more competitive over the second half of the season in general, so hopefully that form will also translate to Brands Hatch – we certainly had great pace on the Indy circuit earlier in the year. Anything can happen on finals day in the BTCC and the weather often throws in the odd curve ball too, so I’m looking forward to getting out there and getting properly stuck in!”
George Gamble, Driver, Toyota Gazoo Racing UK, said:
“I’m really looking forward to Brands GP. It’ll be my first time there in front wheel-drive, but we were competitive on the Indy circuit back in May and I’m excited to put the Toyota through its paces around the full ‘GP’ loop. The Corolla has a cracking chassis, and that should come into its own through the fast, flowing sections.
“I’ve really enjoyed my first season with Toyota Gazoo Racing UK and I’ve made so much progress in terms of adapting to front wheel-drive since we were last at Brands Hatch, so I’m hoping all of our bad luck is now out of the way and that I can finally get a clean weekend to showcase that improvement and turn it into some really strong results.”
Images: Jakob Ebrey Photography