In six of the past seven seasons, Toyota Gazoo Racing UK has come away from Silverstone with at least one winner’s trophy to show for its efforts in the British Touring Car Championship. As the team hits a purple patch in its 2023 campaign, sights are solidly set on yet more silverware this weekend (23/24 September).
Between 2016 and 2018, the Speedworks Motorsport-prepared Toyota Avensis prevailed every year at Silverstone, and since then, the Toyota Corolla GR Sport has raced to a further five victories, including dominant double-tops in both 2019 and 2021.
Three of those triumphs have been achieved by Rory Butcher, who has claimed pole position at the legendary Northants venue in each of the last two years in the country’s premier motor racing series, outscoring all of his high-calibre rivals courtesy of a podium hat-trick 12 months ago.
The 36-year-old Kirkcaldy native – a former BTCC Independents’ Champion and Jack Sears Trophy winner – returns riding the crest of a wave after securing his first win of the season and the 11th of his career last time out at Donington Park. He maintained that form at the famous Goodwood Revival meeting just over a week ago, where he jointly piloted a 1965 Porsche 911 to third place in the Fordwater Trophy.
Butcher will be back behind the wheel of his British-built Corolla this weekend, alongside team-mates Ricky Collard and George Gamble. Collard similarly has his tail up after registering a career-high points haul at Knockhill and then matching that tally at Donington, making the 27-year-old Surrey-born star the BTCC’s equal fourth-highest scorer since the summer break and helping him to climb to seventh in the standings.
Last year, Collard posted the best theoretical lap time of anybody in qualifying around Silverstone’s 1.64-mile National layout, and he converted a front row grid slot into a rostrum result at the track in only his sixth start in the championship back in 2018.
Like Butcher, Gamble also contested the Fordwater Trophy at Goodwood, winding up barely three-quarters-of-a-second behind the Scot in fourth in the final classification. The 27-year-old Nottinghamshire ace has been a regular scorer in recent BTCC races as he increasingly gets to grips with front wheel-drive, and he tasted victory champagne at Silverstone in both the Ginetta GT4 SuperCup and Porsche Carrera Cup GB on his way up the 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 11:00.
Christian Dick, Team Principal, Toyota Gazoo Racing UK, said:
“There’s no two ways about it – winning the last race at Donington Park has given the entire team a tremendous lift after a tough season, and there’s such a positive spirit amongst the whole crew right now. To perform so strongly at both Knockhill and Donington – two completely different types of circuit – is extremely encouraging, and we know how quick the Corolla is around Silverstone.
“This is the first year we’ve run three cars in the BTCC, and I have to say, it’s an absolute joy to see how well all three drivers are working together and interacting with each other. Rory has got his mojo back, Ricky is now consistently challenging right up at the sharp end and George is on the cusp of making a real breakthrough, so all-in-all, we’re very optimistic about a really successful end to the season.”
Rory Butcher, Driver, Toyota Gazoo Racing UK, said:
“Silverstone has been good to me in recent years. I think I’ve only missed the podium once in the last six BTCC races there, and it’s a circuit that really seems to showcase the Toyota’s strengths. As a proud member of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, it’s always enjoyable to compete at the ‘Home of British Motor Racing’ and to go there off the back of opening our victory account for 2023 fills us with confidence for another strong set of results.
“It was great fun stepping back in time to drive the Porsche at Goodwood earlier this month, but I have to admit that I’m looking forward to getting back into my cutting-edge Corolla. It was also nice to pick up another trophy at the Revival, to add to the one we achieved at Donington Park, and the target is to keep that run going this weekend. They do say these things come in threes, after all...”
Ricky Collard, Driver, Toyota Gazoo Racing UK, said:
“It’s hard to believe there are only two events left in the BTCC in 2023, but the second half of the season has definitely gone better than the first half did for us, which shows we are clearly moving in the right direction – and judging by past form, we should be capable of challenging for podiums if not more at Silverstone.
“I’ll never forget the feeling of climbing those podium steps for the first time in the championship five years ago. I was such a BTCC ‘new boy’ at the time, and I’d grown up watching my dad (Rob Collard) spray the champagne so many times, so it was an amazing feeling to be following in his footsteps and continuing the family’s success in the series. He won a lot of races in his career, but I don’t think he ever won at Silverstone in the BTCC, so let’s see if we can add that trophy to the Collard cabinet this weekend...”
George Gamble, Driver, Toyota Gazoo Racing UK, said:
“Although the results didn’t necessarily reflect it, we had decent pace at Donington Park – in fact, the last couple of events, I feel like I’ve really closed the gap to Rory and Ricky and am properly getting the hang of front wheel-drive now. It’s been a tricky transition, as pretty much my whole career up until this year had been in rear wheel-drive machinery and it’s easy to underestimate how difficult it is to make that switch, especially in a championship as competitive as the BTCC.
“I’m feeling excited going to Silverstone. The team and car obviously have an excellent record there, and it really feels like a big result is just around the corner in my side of the garage – we’ve been knocking on the door for a while now. Qualifying will be particularly important, but if everything comes together and we have a trouble-free run, I think we could be on for a really good weekend...”
Images: Jakob Ebrey Photography