Toyota Corolla tipped to tame Brands Hatch GP challenge in BTCC season finale

Toyota Corolla tipped to tame Brands Hatch GP challenge in BTCC season finale

21.10.2021: • Cheshire-based outfit ‘brimful of confidence’ going to Brands Hatch • Toyota Corolla a podium-finisher around famous ‘GP’ circuit last year • Rory Butcher and Sam Smelt targeting a strong end to the season

•    Cheshire-based outfit ‘brimful of confidence’ going to Brands Hatch

•    Toyota Corolla a podium-finisher around famous ‘GP’ circuit last year

•    Rory Butcher and Sam Smelt targeting a strong end to the season



Toyota Gazoo Racing UK is aiming to maintain its momentum by signing off the 2021 British Touring Car Championship campaign in style at Brands Hatch this weekend (23/24 October), with the team confident that its Toyota Corolla GR Sport will be a ‘potent package’ on the demanding ‘GP’ circuit.
 


Rory Butcher has been very much the form driver of late in the country’s premier motor racing series, comfortably outscoring all 28 of his high-calibre adversaries over the most recent two outings as he and the Speedworks Motorsport-run squad have hit a real ‘purple patch’. Indeed, the 34-year-old Kirkcaldy native has reached the rostrum in four of the last six races – including a brace of triumphs – and his record at Brands Hatch suggests he will be a leading contender once again.
 


In 2019, Butcher finished second in the season finale around the legendary ‘GP’ loop – home to Formula 1’s British Grand Prix on no fewer than 12 occasions between 1964 and 1986 – before securing pole position there last year. The former Independents’ Champion and Jack Sears Trophy winner was artfully controlling proceedings until a puncture less than three laps from the end cost him a deserved victory – although that in-turn inspired a crowd-pleasing charge through the field from 25th on the grid to fourth at the chequered flag in race two.
 


In the sister Corolla, team-mate Sam Smelt has made significant progress during the course of his sophomore campaign in the BTCC, but his pace over the second half of the season has rarely been accompanied by much good fortune, with myriad issues derailing his race weekends after showing a strong turn-of-speed in free practice.
 


The 25-year-old Leicester-born ace has competed at Brands Hatch GP in touring cars, single-seaters and sportscars, and is hoping Lady Luck will finally deign to smile upon him to allow him to head into the winter with a spring in his step.


 
Every moment of Sunday’s doorhandle-to-doorhandle action will be broadcast live and in high-definition on ITV4, beginning at 10:45am.
 




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


“Firstly, it’s hard to believe we’re already at the end of the season. The BTCC is renowned for moving at breakneck speed, and it only seems like yesterday that we were travelling to Thruxton back in May for the first round. It’s been an exciting adventure and inevitably a learning curve with two new drivers on-board this year, but we are now very much in the groove as I think our recent performances demonstrate, and in many ways it’s a shame that there are only three more races left.
 


“We certainly go to Brands Hatch feeling brimful of confidence. The ‘GP’ circuit is a favourite amongst drivers for very good reason and a massive challenge from both a driving and engineering perspective – and with the developments we have brought to the car over the past few months, I have no doubt that we will have a potent package at our disposal. The Corolla’s characteristics make it well-suited to the track, and we’re all looking forward to getting out there in FP1 to see how we stack up.
 


“Rory is obviously on stellar form at the moment – he has fully clicked with the Toyota, and that is shining through in his performances. It has been great to watch his confidence grow as he has increasingly settled into both the car and team, and another strong showing would set him up well for a real title push from the word ‘go’ next year.
 


“As for Sam, it has not been the easiest of years for him but he has knuckled down and worked hard throughout, which has been reflected in his much-improved pace in the last few events. He is a far better driver than his championship position suggests and he is now overdue a good result, and we will all support him as much as possible to help him to fulfil his potential this weekend.”
 




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

 

“I’m feeling really good going to Brands Hatch. I’ve enjoyed the way we’ve been building momentum recently, and the Toyota has been strong at similar circuits this season so I’m confident it will suit the track well and that we will hit the ground running again this weekend.
 


“Any opportunity to be let loose on the full Grand Prix loop at Brands is just amazing. It’s such an iconic track, from the speed you can carry through the fifth-gear sequence of right-hand bends at Hawthorns, Westfield and Sheene Curve to the cambered corners that make it such an awesome, old-school challenge.
 


“It’s a great place to end the season and I’ve always tended to go well there, right back to my days competing in the BTCC support series, although I lost a lot of points last year due to the puncture so hopefully it will be much kinder to me this time round. One thing’s for sure – to get to drive the Corolla on the ‘GP’ circuit in the form it’s in at the moment will be incredible, and I’m really excited to get out there.
 


“With the work we’ve done on the car and all the progress we’ve made, I’ve just got this feeling inside that it will really fly at Brands Hatch. I believe we have the potential to fight for silverware come rain or shine, and if we can come away with another trophy or two for the cabinet, that would cap a great end to the season and would definitely be a job well done.”
 





Sam Smelt, Driver, Toyota Gazoo Racing UK, said:
 


“I’ve always seemed to get on fairly well with the Grand Prix circuit at Brands Hatch. It’s a real challenge for drivers, especially out the back of the lap where the speeds are super-fast but the track is pretty narrow, which means there isn’t much room for error.
 


“You need to set the car up to handle several different types of corner and a good, stable, confidence-inspiring chassis is a must. The Corolla certainly has that, as well as being really strong on the brakes, which will be important this weekend.
 


“The Toyota has been quick everywhere we’ve been over the second half of the campaign, so now we have to capitalise upon that and translate it into results, which is what I’m targeting – three solid finishes and hopefully also some points. My main aim going to Brands Hatch is to end what has been a difficult season on a more positive note. We also obviously need a bit of luck, which has been lacking far too often this year.
 


“I know I keep saying it, but the key is to replicate our free practice pace when it really counts in qualifying and then carry that through the weekend while staying out of trouble. Things tend to get a bit lively in the last event of the season and in October, the weather can play a significant role too, so we’ll do our best to steer clear of any dramas and try to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself.”



Russell Atkins - photos J. Ebrey


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21.10.2021 / MaP

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