Toyota Gazoo Racing UK fired-up to 'kick-start' campaign at Snetterton

Toyota Gazoo Racing UK fired-up to 'kick-start' campaign at Snetterton

10.06.2021: • Speedworks-run outfit primed for strong weekend at UK’s longest circuit • Rory Butcher excited to ‘exploit Toyota Corolla’s full potential’ in Norfolk • Sam Smelt focussing on qualifying form to boost his race day prospects

•    Speedworks-run outfit primed for strong weekend at UK’s longest circuit

•    Rory Butcher excited to ‘exploit Toyota Corolla’s full potential’ in Norfolk

•    Sam Smelt focussing on qualifying form to boost his race day prospects

Toyota Gazoo Racing UK is heading into the second outing on the 2021 British Touring Car Championship calendar at Snetterton next weekend (12/13 June) in confident mood, as the Speedworks Motorsport-run squad bids to ‘kick-start’ its season around the longest circuit in the country.

A frustrating curtain-raiser in tricky mixed conditions at Thruxton last month did not ultimately yield the results that the pace of the Northwich, Cheshire-based outfit’s Toyota Corolla GR Sport had promised. Hopes, however, are high for a rapid fightback in Norfolk, where the British-built hatch twice reached the rostrum last October despite carrying significant success ballast.

Not only that, but drivers Rory Butcher and Sam Smelt both have a strong track record at Snetterton, whose 2.97-mile layout is characterised by fast sections calling for maximum commitment, interspersed by slow-speed hairpins where precision is paramount.

The 34-year-old Scot was a winner there two years ago and tallied a trio of top five finishes last season, while his young team-mate produced one of the best performances of his BTCC career to-date in the circuit’s ‘Diamond Double’ feature race in 2018, taking the chequered flag less than five seconds adrift of the top ten midway through his rookie campaign in the UK’s premier motor racing series. The 24-year-old from Northampton has since competed there twice more in the British GT Championship.

Butcher and Smelt both racked up the testing miles at Snetterton during the winter off-season, and are now eager to return to showcase the Corolla’s speed and put into practice everything learned so far. Every moment of the wheel-to-wheel action will as always be broadcast live and in high-definition on ITV4.

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

“The mood inside the camp is pretty buoyant heading to Snetterton, I have to say. It wasn’t the easiest start to the campaign for us at Thruxton, but we learned a lot from the weekend and adversity always makes you stronger. We have gone away, carefully analysed everything and know where we need to improve – and, most importantly, what we need to do to achieve that.

“Ultimately, there were lots of reasons for optimism leaving Thruxton – had it not been for traffic on his last lap in qualifying, Rory could very feasibly have lined up on pole position, and Sam fought his way through to score his first BTCC points in the final race, so it’s clear that the pace is there and we are all hugely excited to properly unlock it next weekend.

“Our pre-season testing at Snetterton was extremely encouraging, and obviously the Corolla was a very competitive proposition there last year. Throw in the fact that both Rory and Sam will be ballast-free in qualifying and race one, and I think we have the basis for a really strong weekend.

“The return of the ‘option’ tyre compound and top ten qualifying shoot-out will unquestionably add further variables into the equation, which is sure to mix things up a bit, but rain or shine, I think we can justifiably feel very confident about our prospects for success. We’re looking forward to kick-starting our season!”

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


“I think it’s fair to say Thruxton was a tricky weekend for everybody due to the constantly changing weather. Results-wise, it was clearly very disappointing, but sometimes you learn the hard way – particularly in a championship as tough and as cut-throat as the BTCC – and you just have to take it on the chin and move on.

“On the positive side, we were able to pinpoint the main areas to focus on, and we came away with much greater knowledge of how the car reacts in different conditions. I have to say, the feedback the Corolla gave me was very encouraging. I feel like I’m really beginning to get to grips with it now – we’re bringing it increasingly into the window where I need it to be to extract the very best out of it.

“I’m very excited for Snetterton. We did a fair bit of running there pre-season, and the Corolla felt brilliant right from the word ‘go’. We experimented with a lot of different set-up options, and I think we return in a very good place. The characteristics of the car really seem to suit the circuit, particularly its poise when tackling the medium and slow-speed corners – which is exactly what you want at Snetterton – and through the high-speed sections, too, it was very confidence-inspiring.

“The track poses an altogether different challenge to Thruxton, and it’s true that it hasn’t always been my favourite on the calendar. It took me a little while to really put all the pieces of the puzzle together there, but I’ve worked very hard to improve and I think my performances and results over the past couple of seasons demonstrate the progress that I’ve made.

“After what happened at Thruxton, the goal at Snetterton has to be to finish all three races and put some solid points on the board. With no success ballast to carry, we can exploit the Corolla’s full potential in qualifying so it will be important to secure a strong grid position to give ourselves the best possible chance on race day. I know I have the car underneath me to get the job done, so there’s nothing holding us back. Let’s go out there and do this!”

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


“It was good to get the first race weekend under my belt. It was never going to be easy returning to the BTCC after more than two years away from the grid – especially at Thruxton – and the changeable weather only added to that challenge, but we stuck to our plan and kept working our way forward. It was all about re-finding my feet in the championship, and to finish the weekend by scoring my first points was a great confidence boost.

“I learnt a lot – particularly with regard to tyre behaviour and management, and how to get the best out of them – and we made consistent progress throughout. In hindsight, I was probably a bit too cautious to begin with, and one of the major focusses at Snetterton will be to make sure we’re not on the back foot again after qualifying. That really limited our race day prospects at Thruxton – the level in the BTCC is so high that when you start down the order, it can be difficult to recover.

“We had three test days at Snetterton over the winter – in a mixture of conditions – which immediately gives us a head-start compared to Thruxton and a lot of data to refer to. I’m also looking forward to being able to concentrate fully on myself and the car this time, without having to re-acclimatise to the circuit as well. It’s a very different type of track, with a lot of time to be gained or lost around the lap.

“The Corolla was strong there last season, so there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be quick again and I know where I personally need to improve. If we can start further up the grid, that will immediately make our life a whole lot easier and I’m just really excited to get there and see what we can do. Hopefully we can hit the ground running right from FP1.”

Russell Atkins - photos J. Ebrey


10.06.2021 / MaP

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