Home soil start and great expectations for new-look TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK

22nd April 2024

  • Hopes are high at Speedworks Motorsport-run squad as new BTCC season looms
  • Former world champion Huff targeting ‘a big bagful of points’ in curtain-raising contest
  • Jack Sears Trophy winner Watson returning to the scene of standout series debut

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK is approaching the forthcoming British Touring Car Championship campaign in positive mood, with an exciting new-look driver line-up and a home soil start at Donington Park next weekend (27/28 April).

The Speedworks Motorsport-prepared Toyota Corolla GR Sport is already 12 times a race-winner in the country’s premier motor racing series, and its road-going cousin is produced just a few miles up the road from the track at Toyota Motor Manufacturing UK (TMUK) in Burnaston.

The Corolla’s maiden BTCC victory came at Donington in only its sixth start in 2019, with another following last season. The British-built hatch has achieved four rostrum results in total at the Leicestershire circuit, which the championship will visit twice this year – once for the curtain-raising contest on the popular ‘National’ layout, and then again in late August when competitors will tackle the extended ‘Grand Prix’ loop, made famous by Ayrton Senna’s fabled wet-weather heroics just over three decades ago.

Behind the wheel of the two Toyotas will be former FIA World Touring Car Champion Rob Huff and reigning Jack Sears Trophy winner Andrew Watson. Huff was a double podium-finisher in the WTCC at Donington in 2011, and is embarking upon only his second full campaign in the BTCC – his first dating all the way back to 2004. Since then, the Cambridgeshire ace has plied his trade almost exclusively on the international stage, with substantial success.

In the sister Corolla, Andrew Watson similarly boasts a wealth of experience of competing on foreign shores, making a name for himself in GT racing before transferring his skills to tin-tops last season. The 29-year-old Northern Irishman stunned on his BTCC debut at Donington 12 months ago by qualifying inside the top eight – some way ahead of his two team-mates – and coming within a whisker of a podium finish in his very first race in the series.

The 2024 calendar features ten race weekends, with all of the action season-long to be broadcast live and in high-definition on ITV channels as well as the championship’s TikTok account.

Christian Dick, Team Principal, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK, said:

“There have been a lot of changes over the past few months, but one thing that has absolutely not changed is the burning ambition that drives every single member of this team – and the commitment to delivering no less than 100 per cent in the pursuit of perfection.

“And I don’t mean that lightly. The BTCC is so fiercely competitive that you can’t afford to leave a single stone unturned or so much as a tenth-of-a-second on the table if you want to win. That’s why we have worked harder than ever over the winter, to ensure we can go into the new campaign in the strongest possible shape and hit the ground running right from the first free practice session.

“The Corolla is a proven package in the championship, and even in its sixth season in the BTCC, we are still finding more pace and performance, with Rob and Andrew delivering useful feedback about areas for further improvement.

“Both drivers are quickly getting to grips with the Toyota and learning how to extract the best out of it, and I have no doubt that they will be capable of challenging for podium finishes from the outset. We’re all massively excited to get going and seeing what we can achieve this year!”

Rob Huff, Driver, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK, said:

“I think we’ve had a very positive pre-season, all-in-all. Testing has been predominantly wet, but it’s been nice for me to be able to settle into the team, form relationships with everybody and get my head around the car a bit and the way it operates. It’s very busy inside the cockpit compared to what I’ve been used to recently, from its manual sequential ‘box and changeable gear ratios to hybrid deployment – and that’s before you even begin to consider the different tyre compounds!

“I’ve been working very well with my engineer and crew exploring different set-up options and feel pretty comfortable in the Corolla now. It goes without saying that I would love another seven or eight days in the car before the season gets underway, but I’m sure everybody else is of the same opinion!

“Donington is probably one of the UK circuits I’ve been to most often and one I’ve always enjoyed – it’s fast-and-flowing with a really nice combination of corners. It’s also a home event for Toyota with the Burnaston factory just around the corner, so hopefully we will see a large crowd of guys and girls there from TMUK to cheer us on.

“The Corolla has a strong record at the track, so we’re keen to capitalise upon that and I’m targeting a good first weekend to start off as we mean to go on – with a big bagful of points!”

Andrew Watson, Driver, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK, said:

“I’m feeling really excited for Donington Park. It’s such a great circuit – especially in a touring car – and the perfect place to start the season. It tends to generate really good racing and obviously has very positive memories for me from last year.

“There has been a lot to get on top of during the off-season, but I think we have used our test days wisely to build a very solid foundation for the campaign ahead. Switching to right-hand drive has been a little bit different, but I got a good feeling from the Toyota straightaway and we’re finding more with every test. The Corolla’s base set-up seems to be really strong, so now it’s about extracting the most from it at each track.

“It’s great having Rob alongside me. He’s a super-nice guy, really open with so much experience and I’m already learning from him. He brings a lot of value to the team and will be a tough competitor for sure. We’ve been saying very similar things about the Corolla, too, which is reassuring – everybody is pulling in the same direction.

“I’m also really beginning to gel with my race engineer, Jack, so overall, I’m feeling good and my confidence is high. I’m in a top team and a great car, so there’s no point in denying it – the goal is to challenge for podium finishes and wins.”

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