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TOYOTA GAZOO RACING UK AIMING TO FINISH WITH A FLOURISH

Brands Hatch’s famous GP layout will stage the final instalment of the 2022 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship campaign this weekend (8/9 October) and, buoyed by its most successful outing of the season to date last month, Toyota GAZOO Racing UK is on the hunt for more trophies in Kent.

The 2.43-mile GP loop is renowned for delivering drama by the bucketload and Rory Butcher can certainly vouch for that. After reaching the rostrum there in 2019, the 35-year-old looked set for a commanding victory the following year as he led confidently from pole position, only for a puncture less than three laps from the chequered flag to cruelly deny him.

Underscoring his raw speed, Butcher scythed through the field from 25th to fourth in the next race, and he returns to the circuit in bullish mood, having tallied his tenth career triumph at Silverstone just over a week ago. The former BTCC Independents’ Champion then backed that up with two further top-three results to outscore all 28 of his high-calibre rivals.

In the sister Speedworks Motorsport-run Toyota Corolla GR Sport, team-mate Ricky Collard is similarly in a fine vein of form – even if ill fortune meant his eye-catching pace was not rewarded last time out.

The 26-year-old was a serial podium-finisher at Brands Hatch GP from 2014 to 2016 in British Formula Ford, MSA Formula and BRDC British F3 – and he has his sights solidly set on more silverware when the UK’s premier motor racing series hits the track there this weekend.

Following Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session at 1540 – broadcast on itv.com/btcc – every moment of Sunday’s doorhandle-to-doorhandle action will be televised live and in high-definition on ITV4, beginning at 1000.

“It’s fair to say our performance and results at Silverstone have given everybody in the team a real lift,” reflected Team Principal Christian Dick. “These guys and girls work so hard and put in so much blood, sweat and tears both at and away from the track, and for them to finally be rewarded for that – in such emphatic fashion, too – was very satisfying indeed.

“It’s been a long road this year, but at last we’re back where we believe we belong – fighting for wins and podium finishes in what is arguably the toughest touring car championship in the world. To see Rory and Ricky battling consistently up at the sharp end in recent weeks is testament to the significant progress we have made since the start of the season.

“Both drivers have prior form around Brands Hatch’s GP layout, and the Corolla’s characteristics and core attributes should make it a potent proposition. Rory will have a reasonable amount of hybrid deployment in qualifying and Ricky will have the full complement available to him, and we expect that to be quite a factor this weekend, so hopefully we can get both cars well inside the top ten on the grid and then go from there.

“In many ways, it’s a shame to be ending the season just as we’ve established such strong momentum, but we are ready to push it to the limit one more time this year and in so doing, hopefully send out a warning shot for 2023. Rain or shine, the atmosphere in the Brands GP finale is invariably pretty special, so let’s go out there and give the fans a show to remember!”

“I always look forward to going to Brands GP,” added Butcher. “Even more so this year, off the back of such a superb weekend at Silverstone. It’s a classic old-school challenge – a proper drivers’ track that generates fantastic racing, and is not a place for the faint-hearted. It’s real edge-of-the-seat, balls-to-the-wall stuff, and the kind of circuit where confidence is king.

“The Toyota Gazoo Racing UK camp is brim-full of confidence following our first win of the season last time out, and there’s no reason at all why the Corolla shouldn’t be just as competitive at Brands Hatch. There’s obviously a pretty tense title fight playing out right now, and while I clearly don’t want to get mixed up in that, at the same time we don’t need to worry about playing the percentages and can simply focus on trying to achieve the very best results possible for ourselves.

“Having climbed into the top five in the standings, I’m keen to maintain that position to match my best-ever BTCC finish, but I’d also like to bring home a bit more silverware before we head into the long off-season to thank the Speedworks guys and girls for all their hard work.

“Regardless of where you are in the points table, the last race of the year is one that everybody wants to win as it gives you that little bit of extra momentum and motivation going into the winter months. I’ve done it before – on the Indy circuit back in 2020 – and I would love to do it again. We’ll certainly be giving it our absolute best shot!”

“I love Brands GP – it’s a very special circuit with a lot of history behind it, and a great place to end the season,” said Collard. “It hasn’t changed over the years, and I really enjoy that undiluted challenge. It’s undulating and somewhere that will punish you if you make a mistake, and it’s fun racing into the fading light.

“You definitely need a good car underneath you around the GP loop, and I think the Toyota will perform really well – it’s exactly the kind of track that should showcase the Corolla’s key qualities. Mine also has a new shell this weekend, which has been a massive job so a huge ‘thank you’ to the Speedworks guys and girls for that. I just hope all the bad luck stays with the old shell and that the new one has been blessed by a priest!

“Despite the disappointing results, there were certainly positives to take from Silverstone. We were one of the quickest front-wheel drive cars again, as we have consistently been over the second half of the season, so the pace is clearly there and we want to really exploit that at Brands Hatch and end on a high to set us up well for 2023.

“I actually had the fastest theoretical lap time of anybody in qualifying at Silverstone, but I didn’t manage to execute the lap – so that is a major focus this weekend, getting the absolute maximum out of both myself and the car and starting further up the grid than I’ve done so far. After that, we’ve got to be aiming for the podium – it’s been taken away from us a couple of times this year, but I really want to end the season with a trophy to thank everybody for their tireless efforts the whole way through.”

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