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Butcher takes ‘emotional’ Donington Park victory

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK’s Rory Butcher collected his 11th career triumph in the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship at Donington Park last weekend (26/27 August), to the delight of the many attending guests from nearby Toyota Motor Manufacturing UK (TMUK).

It was Ricky Collard who spearheaded the Speedworks Motorsport-run outfit’s challenge in qualifying, as he threw his British-built Toyota Corolla GR Sport around the Leicestershire circuit’s legendary ‘GP’ layout with brio, earning third on the grid.

There was disappointment, however, for team-mates Butcher and George Gamble. The Scot was a frustrated 14th, while local hero Gamble – who hails from just up the road in Nottingham – was four places further back still, having impressed by setting the pace in a mixed-weather second free practice session earlier in the day.

On a wet track surface in the curtain-raising contest, Collard made a strong start to snatch second from championship leader Ash Sutton (NAPA Racing UK) around the outside of Redgate Corner, although, conceded the position again when he found himself momentarily delayed by an incident ahead.

Thereafter, the 27-year-old defended against four-time champion Colin Turkington (Team BMW) behind, before having to give best to Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport Jake Hill in the closing stages, leaving him fourth. Butcher and Gamble made positive progress through the pack to take the chequered flag in close company in 11th and 13th.

In dry conditions in race two, Collard produced another strong drive to wind up sixth, two spots in front of Butcher, who continued his upward momentum by battling his way to eighth. Gamble similarly looked set for a solid points-scoring finish after improving to 11th by mid-distance, only for his efforts to be undone by a puncture.

Butcher and Collard lined up respectively fifth and seventh for the weekend’s reversed-grid finale, and both gained early ground. The 36-year-old Kirkcaldy native quickly rose to second, with a safety car intervention then carrying him right onto the tail of Daniel Lloyd (Autobrite Direct with Millers Oils) in the lead.

Once the action resumed, Butcher was applying pressure for the lead when Daniel Lloyd’s car suddenly snapped sideways with less than half-a-lap remaining due to a broken driveshaft. That paved the way for Butcher to take his first victory of the campaign, maintaining his excellent record of winning at least once every season since 2019.

Collard was just 1.75 seconds behind in fourth – helping to secure Toyota the manufacturers’ trophy for the race – as he matched his career-high score from Knockhill two weeks previously to climb to seventh in the Drivers’ standings. Gamble concluded his weekend with a solid run from 22nd to 13th.

Rory Butcher said: “It’s been a tough season – it seemed for a while like I had forgotten how to drive and I lost a lot of confidence, which really dragged me down, but everybody has stood by me, from the team to my sponsors and my family and I’ve been slowly rebuilding it. Now, it feels like the old Rory is back.

“The car was better than I was in qualifying; all the ingredients were there to put in a quick lap, but I didn’t piece it together. Still, I knew what I needed to do, so it was just a case of trying to gain places in each race to put ourselves in the mix for the reversed grid.

“The first one was pretty feisty, with a lot of nudging and overtaking, but we made it through unscathed and then strategically worked our way up the order again in race two. The Corolla was really strong in race three, and there was plenty of clean, door-to-door racing, which was great.

“I felt so sorry for Dan [Lloyd] – that was his win and he definitely deserved a trophy having driven so well, but at the same time, I was really happy to bring it back for the team because they deserve it too after all the hard work that everybody has put in. It was an emotional result for me, and super-cool to do it at our home event in front of so many people from TMUK. I was gifted that one, unquestionably, but after the season we’ve had, I will 100 per cent take it…”

Ricky Collard said: “I was very happy with third in qualifying, even if I didn’t quite extract the most from the car. We adopted a different strategy to the rest of the guys out there and went really risky with the set-up. The upshot was that the Corolla was very loose and on a knife-edge; that was the philosophy behind it, to try to get the rotation but perhaps we went a bit too far as I lost the rear-end a couple of times.

“I was gutted not to get that elusive podium again but I just couldn’t hold Jake [Hill] off, and I was happy to bring the car back in fourth place. I was in and amongst it, which is where I want to be, and it was the same in race two.

“We then had a proper ‘old-school’ race three. I had no pressure over the last three laps, so I was cheering Rory on over the radio. He’s had a difficult season, but we’re good mates and I was absolutely elated to see him get the win that he deserves.”

George Gamble said: “After being quickest in FP2, we were targeting the top ten in qualifying, so it was disappointing to end up down in 18th. Going from an old tyre to a new tyre seemed to unsettle the balance of the car, but we knew we could still do some damage in the races.

“It was nice to have a wet race in the first of them, and we made good progress to gain five places. The aim then was to keep it rolling for the rest of the day to put us in with a shout for the reversed grid draw for race three, but the puncture obviously put paid to that. It was a real shame, as we were moving in the right direction again and given the results that Rory and Ricky came away with, I’m confident we could also have been right up there.

“As it was, we had to fight through from the back of the pack, which has been a bit of a theme this season, but the car felt good and it was nice to grab a few more points considering where we started, to maintain the positive momentum that we’ve been building recently.”

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