Collard climbs championship table with committed effort on home soil

Toyota trio aiming to tame ultra-fast Thruxton

Toyota trio aiming to tame ultra-fast Thruxton
  • Speedworks Motorsport-run outfit ready to tackle country’s quickest circuit head-on 
  • British-built Toyota Corolla GR Sport still holds race lap record in Hampshire
  • Drivers excited for undiluted, unforgiving, ‘old-school’ challenge of flat-out Thruxton
Toyota Gazoo Racing UK is Thruxton-bound this weekend (3/4 June) for the next three rounds of the 2023 British Touring Car Championship campaign, and the Speedworks Motorsport-run squad will head to Hampshire with a spring in its step off the back of its first podium finish of the season last time out.

There is nowhere quite like Thruxton on the national motor racing scene – nowhere else that demands quite so much commitment, and nowhere else that so pitilessly punishes even the slightest of mis-steps. With an abrasive surface, top speeds verging on an eye-watering 160mph and scant margin for error, it is a circuit that truly rewards those brave enough to push right to the limit – but bites anybody who foolishly strays beyond.

Thruxton’s fast, flowing layout also plays to the strengths of a well-sorted chassis – one of the British-built Toyota Corolla GR Sport’s undisputed trump cards – so it is perhaps little surprise that it is the popular Japanese ‘hot hatch’ that still holds the official BTCC race lap record there from 2020, when Toyota Gazoo Racing UK came away with a dominant double victory.

Rory Butcher added to the team’s growing silverware collection at Snetterton a week-and-a-half ago, charging to second place – the Scot’s 30th career rostrum – in the final race. The 36-year-old Kirkcaldy native – a former BTCC Independents’ Champion and Jack Sears Trophy winner in the UK’s premier motor racing series – is also a multiple podium-finisher at Thruxton, and is fired-up to go one step higher this weekend.

Stablemate Ricky Collard has been out-of-luck for much of his sophomore campaign with the team to-date, but his pace is certainly not in doubt, as the 26-year-old Surrey-born star increasingly establishes himself as a leading contender. He, too, has form at Thruxton – his home track – after defeating current McLaren Formula 1 driver Lando Norris to the runner-up spoils there in MSA Formula in 2015, and a second BTCC trophy is looking somewhat overdue...

George Gamble achieved his maiden car racing win at the circuit in Ginetta Juniors in 2011, going on to reach the rostrum there again in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB. Piloting the third Corolla, the Nottinghamshire racer is swiftly settling into his new surroundings and getting to grips with front wheel-drive this season, as he knocks on the door of a big result that is surely now a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’.

Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session will be streamed on ITV Sport’s YouTube channel from 15:15, with every moment of Sunday’s doorhandle-to-doorhandle action to be broadcast live and in high-definition on ITV4, beginning at 11:15.

Christian Dick, Team Principal, Toyota Gazoo Racing UK, said:

“Following a difficult start to the season, we’re going into this weekend with our tails up and in positive mood, after finally getting the chance to show what we’re capable of last time out given a clean run. On paper, Thruxton is in many ways much more straightforward than Snetterton – there are fewer varieties of corner, fewer heavy-braking zones and with the same tyre for all three races, there won’t be so much of a strategic battle – but in other respects, it’s possibly the toughest place we go to all year.

“It’s not only the drivers who are pushed right to the limit at Thruxton. Looking after the car and tyres is arguably more important there than at any other circuit, and it’s vital to stay out of trouble as it’s the kind of track where there is no such thing as a ‘small’ accident. They say fortune favours the brave, though, and after soaking up more than our fair share of bad luck so far this year, we’re ready to go on the attack, throw caution to the wind and bring home some silverware!”

Rory Butcher, Driver, Toyota Gazoo Racing UK, said:

“It felt like the podium at Snetterton had been a long time coming – especially after finishing last season in such strong form – and it’s given the whole team the lift that everybody needed, so now the key is to make sure we carry this momentum forward with us and do it again. While we know we still have some speed to find, we’re consistently clawing our way closer to the front of the field and more trophies this weekend are certainly the goal.

“Thruxton is totally unique on the BTCC calendar. When you truly nail a lap around there, it’s an extraordinary feeling and you know you’ve had to work hard – your hands are still shaking on the steering wheel when you come back into the pit-lane afterwards. As racing drivers, that’s what we enjoy most – really grabbing the car by the scruff of the neck and wringing every last drop out of it, and I love the way the Corolla dances through some of the quicker sections. Let’s go and do this!”

Ricky Collard, Driver, Toyota Gazoo Racing UK, said:

“I make no apology for being an old-school, ‘balls-to-the-wall’ racer – that’s simply who I am, it’s in my genes – and as an old-school, balls-to-the-wall circuit, Thruxton is just my kind of vibe. Qualifying there is one of the biggest challenges of the season – it calls for maximum commitment and then some. Through the fastest corners, every voice in your head is screaming at you to rein it in, but your foot stays planted firmly to the floor. It’s the kind of place where you need to leave your brain behind when you exit the pits...

“It’s just an awesome experience, and as my home track, I tend to receive plenty of support which is fantastic. We showed good potential there last summer even if that wasn’t reflected in the results, and although we didn’t get the rub of the green again at Snetterton earlier this month, our performance was definitely encouraging and the feeling is good. I can’t wait to get stuck in!”

George Gamble, Driver, Toyota Gazoo Racing UK, said:

“I’m looking forward to Thruxton. It’s certainly not a place for the faint-hearted – you need to put everything on the line to extract a good lap – and I’ve got happy memories of the track from the BTCC support series. While I struggled there last year, I’m excited to see what it’s like in front wheel-drive and I’m feeling more comfortable and at home in the Corolla every time out.

“It’s relatively easy to follow at Thruxton with the slipstream, but it can be tricky to overtake, so qualifying will be important and hopefully Rory, Ricky and myself can work together and give each other a tow to get all three cars as far up the grid as possible. Beyond that, my main goal is to keep on improving. We unquestionably made another step forward at Snetterton, but we’re just having some rotten luck at the moment – so let’s try to come away with a solid points haul to get ourselves back on-track.”

Images: Jakob Ebrey Photography

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