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Collard leads Corolla charge with top ten treble in Cheshire

Ricky Collard led the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK charge as the Championship concluded the opening half of its 2023 campaign at Oulton Park in Cheshire last weekend (17/18 June), achieving his best result of the season to-date on Speedworks Motorsport’s home soil.  

Collard and team-mates Rory Butcher and George Gamble entered qualifying aiming to progress through to the second part of the session – the ‘Top Ten Showdown’ – in the knowledge that grid position at Oulton is often key, given the difficulty of overtaking around the 2.26km circuit.  

All three drivers were in the mix as the clock ticked down in Q1, with Collard and Butcher safely booking their spots in Q2 while Gamble missed out by a tenth-of-a-second. Collard then maintained his Q1 form in the shootout to secure a season-best third on the grid, with Butcher winding up ninth and Gamble 14th.  

The next day, Collard initially held position before conceding a place to defending champion Tom Ingram (BRISTOL STREET MOTORS with EXCELR8). Thereafter, the 26-year-old battled multiple race-winners Dan Cammish (NAPA Racing UK) and Josh Cook (One Motorsport with Starline Racing) to cement fourth at the chequered flag behind the wheel of his British-built Toyota Corolla GR Sport.  

Having advanced to eighth, a five-second penalty for a false start and a minor error demoted Butcher outside of the points, while Gamble had climbed to 12th when a technical problem forced him into the pits and retirement approaching mid-distance.  

Collard ran up at the sharp end again in race two, until he touched the grass in the closing stages, costing him positions and leaving him a frustrated ninth. Butcher was next up in tenth as the Kirkcaldy native battled back from his earlier disappointment. Nottinghamshire driver Gamble similarly gained ground from the tail-end of the grid after his race one DNF to wind up 20th. 

The Toyota trio subsequently ran together for a while in the day’s finale, with Collard and Butcher ultimately replicating their race two results in ninth and tenth respectively, as Gamble picked up a handful of points just behind in 11th

Rory Butcher said: “It was a steady if unspectacular weekend, I would say. We were missing a little bit in the top ten shootout in qualifying, and at Oulton, your race day is so often conditioned by your starting position. I was on the back of the second pack of cars in race one and thought we might be able to make some inroads, but unfortunately, the penalty and small mistake then dropped us out of the points, which was frustrating.   

“I was pleased to climb back into the top ten in race two, and race three was something of a journey into the unknown on the hard tyres. Still, we managed to come away with another top ten finish, and now the focus shifts to unlocking that last little bit of performance over the next few weeks that will allow us to really take the fight to the front-runners in the remaining rounds.” 

Ricky Collard said: “I was really happy with third place in qualifying. The team gave me an absolutely unreal car – the Corolla was just fantastic – and it was a proper lap, one of the best I’ve ever done around Oulton. That put us in a really good position for the races, when I was looking forward to getting my teeth stuck in.”  

“I think race one was the maximum we could do. The car felt good and I managed to keep [Dan] Cammish behind me, which was positive, although I was hoping it would come to me slightly more towards the end.” 

George Gamble said: “After struggling at Thruxton, Oulton Park was a much stronger weekend all-round. Right from the outset, we had solid pace and it was nice to be back inside the top ten in free practice, although obviously disappointing to miss out on progressing through to the shootout in qualifying by such a tiny margin. That’s the BTCC, though – it’s not the country’s toughest championship for nothing.” 

“Sunday was then a bit eventful, all-in-all. I was gutted to have to retire from race one with a technical issue as we were moving forwards, but to make up nine positions in race three and fight our way into the points was a mega end to the day and a very positive way to go into the summer break.”

Following a six-week break, the BTCC will continue at Croft in North Yorkshire on 29/20 July.  

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