Toyota trio unleash fighting spirit to overcome adversity at Croft

Toyota trio unleash fighting spirit to overcome adversity at Croft
  • Collard celebrates 27th birthday with a full house of points scores in Yorkshire
  • Butcher shows strong pace as he rues a weekend of ‘what could have been’
  • Gamble scythes through the field in finale to tally third top ten finish of season
Birthday boy Ricky Collard sped to a hat-trick of points scores as the British Touring Car Championship resumed from its mid-season break at Croft last weekend (29/30 July), with Toyota Gazoo Racing UK stablemates Rory Butcher and George Gamble similarly tallying top ten finishes despite the team encountering more than its fair share of misfortune in North Yorkshire.

Collard led the Toyota trio in qualifying to line up 12th amongst the 26 high-calibre contenders in the country’s premier motor racing series, although he reckoned he left up to three tenths-of-a-second on the table – when just another 0.045s would have elevated him to eighth.

In front of the live ITV4 television cameras the next day and a capacity trackside crowd, he turned that into an 11th-place finish in the curtain-raising outing – in the thick of the midfield scrap – before putting his soft-compound tyres to good use in race two to improve to eighth, less than a second-and-a-half shy of the top five.

From there, the Surrey-born star – who turned 27 on race day – looked primed to pounce in the weekend’s finale, but after losing oil on the way to the grid, he found himself obliged to start from the pit-lane. Facing the double disadvantage of having to try to climb the order while on the unfavourable harder rubber, he dug deep to salvage a point for 15th position – in so doing, strengthening his grip on a top ten spot in the championship standings.

Having shown strong pace during free practice, former BTCC Independents’ Champion and Jack Sears Trophy winner Butcher saw his qualifying efforts scuppered by a badly-timed red flag, but he had fought his way from 18th up to 13th in race one when he was forced out approaching mid-distance by power steering problems.

From 25th on the grid for race two, the 36-year-old Kirkcaldy native battled into the points within just six laps, but a ten-second penalty for a false start dropped him from 14th to 18th in the overall classification. Saving his best until last, Butcher fairly carved through the pack to finish eighth in the final bout of the day, posting the fourth-fastest lap in the process behind the wheel of his British-built Toyota Corolla GR Sport to consolidate ninth position in the title chase.

Gamble all-but matched Butcher’s time in qualifying to secure 19th place, but a clutch issue as he pulled up to his grid slot ahead of the opener prompted a pit-lane start, which he converted to 18th at the chequered flag – less than two seconds outside of the points. The 27-year-old Nottinghamshire ace was subsequently taken out of the second contest by another driver, but he was not to be denied in race three.

After vaulting from 25th up to 19th over the course of the first lap, Gamble then maintained that stellar progress to ultimately scythe through to tenth – duly cementing the seventh points-scoring result of his maiden campaign with the Speedworks Motorsport-run outfit.

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

“The BTCC is such a competitive championship that in order to succeed, you need everything to go right – when things start to go against you, it can get very difficult. All three drivers performed extremely well at Croft, but the fact of the matter is that for a variety of reasons, the cards just didn’t fall our way.

“Saturday was a mixed day. It began very positively in practice, but qualifying was frustrating due to the red flag and some track limits infringements that pushed us down the order. That was a tough pill to swallow, but we knew we had good pace and with mixed tyre strategies, we were confident of moving forward on Sunday.

“Ricky was on great form in the first two races but was denied a shot at an even better result in the last one by the oil spillage, while for Rory and George, the day followed pretty much the opposite pattern, as Lady Luck refused to shine on them in races one and two but they both charged into the top ten in race three. To finish with all three cars inside the points marked a more encouraging end to the weekend, and we will take away the lessons learned and come back stronger.”

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

“That was a weekend of ‘what could have been’. We approached the second half of the season with a fresh mindset and we had a good feeling in practice, but a red flag in qualifying when I was on my fastest lap robbed us of a top eight starting slot.

“At times in the races, it felt like we were playing snakes and ladders! It’s difficult to pass at Croft due to the nature of the circuit, but we gained five positions in race one on the hard tyres until we had to pit and then drove from the back of grid to 13th in race two, only to pick up a ten-second penalty for a false start after the car next to me jumped the gun and I reacted.

“The Toyota was super racy in the last one and we made up another ten places, so despite not scoring that many points over the weekend, there were certainly positives and we can be pleased with our ability to fight through the field.”

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

“It was good to score points in all three races, but we still clearly have improvements to make in terms of both pace and reliability. I hold my hand up for qualifying; I was second-fastest in the final sector, but I didn’t hook the full lap together and it wouldn’t have taken very much at all to jump a couple of rows up the grid, so that was my bad.

“What happened before race three was such a shame. I think we could definitely have stood our ground and been in the mix for a top five finish had we started where we should have done; we might even have been able to sneak a podium, especially with a collision removing two of the drivers in front. I was lucky that brought out the safety car, which allowed me to catch the pack up – otherwise, I’d have had no chance at all – and somehow, we managed to blag a point. We’ve got some work to do, but we’ll keep pushing.”

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

“Another weekend that encapsulated the highs and lows of motorsport! I always enjoy Croft, but we had a couple of tough races whose outcome was beyond our control. That left us on the very back row of the grid for the last one, from where we managed to climb 15 places to finish inside the top ten. I don’t think I’ve gained so much ground in a single race since my ‘junior’ days, so I really enjoyed that.

“Sunday was a tough day for the Toyota Gazoo Racing UK guys and girls – they had their work cut out with the tight schedule, but they never downed tools and they did an absolutely unbelievable job to get my engine out and back in again to replace the clutch between races one and two, so I owe a massive thanks to them all. It was really good to reward them with such a good last race – that was a fantastic end to the weekend.”

Images: Jakob Ebrey Photography

Go Back
Back to Top