Huff and Watson aim to tame super-fast Thruxton

5th June 2024

Fresh off the back of its first victory of the 2024 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship campaign at Snetterton last month, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK is headed for Hampshire this weekend (8-9 June) as the team bids to continue its winning ways around the fastest circuit in the country – Thruxton.

Built on the site of a wartime airfield that played a role in the D-Day landings, Thruxton’s 2.37 miles of unforgiving asphalt generate the highest speeds of the season, with drivers hitting an eye-watering 160mph around the back of the lap, the majority of which is spent in either fifth or sixth-gear.

The track’s succession of flat-out corners places the priority on a capable chassis, and demonstrating its first-class dynamics, theBritish-built, Speedworks Motorsport-prepared Toyota Corolla GR Sport triumphed twice at Thruxton in 2020, tallying further good results in subsequent seasons.

Former FIA World Touring Car Champion Rob Huff – the architect of that magnificent charge through the field from 14th on the grid to the top step of the podium a week-and-a-half ago – reached the rostrum in Hampshire in Renault Clios back in 2002. He shone there again the following year to pip future three-time BTCC champion Gordon Shedden to the SEAT CUPRA Championship crown, which proved to be the Cambridgeshire ace’s passport into the big-time.

Eight months later, Huff made his debut in the UK’s premier motor racing series at Thruxton, instantly staking his claim as a star-in-the-making by taking the chequered flag sixth, two spots ahead of team-mate Jason Plato, who would go on to become the winningest driver in the BTCC’s long and illustrious history.

In the sister Corolla this weekend, Andrew Watson is eager to quickly bounce back from a missed opportunity at Snetterton, where the Northern Irishman – the reigning Jack Sears Trophy champion – looked set to finish second until a small error in the rain-plagued conditions cost him the runner-up spoils.

Watson was a winner at Thruxton in the Ginetta GT4 SuperCup in 2014 as he worked his way up the national motor racing ladder, and he qualified a strong seventh in his maiden BTCC appearance at the track 12 months ago. The 29-year-old is keen to convert his palpable potential and single-lap speed into a trophy or two this weekend.

Following Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session at 15:25 – streamed on ITV Sport’s YouTube channel – every moment of Sunday’s doorhandle-to-doorhandle action will be broadcast live and in high-definition on ITV4, beginning at 11:00. All three races will similarly be shown on the ITV Sport TikTok channel, in the UK and globally.

Christian Dick, Team Principal, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK, said: “We’re very much looking forward to Thruxton, and everybody in the team has a real spring in their step after Rob’s win last time out and the incredible Toyota one-two-three. Thruxton is obviously a very different proposition to Snetterton and indeed to anywhere else we go, and that makes it a tremendous challenge that I think everybody up and down the grid relishes.

“The Corolla has proved its pace there in the past with the double victory in 2020, and I would say the car is going from strength-to-strength right now, with multiple podium finishes in recent races testament to our sustained development drive and the direction we are pursuing.

“We ignored the naysayers and stuck boldly to our guns regarding tyre choice at Snetterton, which paid off richly in race three, and Rob and Andrew are similarly not lacking in the bravery stakes, which is an absolute prerequisite for a successful weekend at Thruxton. The only downside to our win at Snetterton was that I unfortunately wasn’t there to see it, but I’m hoping to be back trackside this weekend so no pressure, but I’ve told the team they’ve got to do it again!”

Rob Huff, Driver, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK, said: “The last time I drove at Thruxton was back in 2004, so it’s been a while! The thing about Thruxton, though, is that I suspect it hasn’t changed a great deal over the intervening two decades, which is one of the secrets to its enduring appeal. It’s just a proper balls-out, old-school style circuit whose challenge has never been diluted, and it’s somewhere I’ve always loved. You really need to grab the car by the scruff of the neck and wring every last drop out of it – it isn’t a place for the faint-hearted.

“The top three lockout at Snetterton was not only a fantastic reward for all the hard-working Speedworks boys and girls, but it also gave everybody inside the team a real confidence boost, which will be vital at Thruxton – and we already know the Toyota is quick around there. I’m looking forward to pushing the car through the fastest sections, where I believe the Corolla’s well-sorted chassis should truly come into its own.

“I still remember winning the SEAT CUPRA Championship at Thruxton 21 years ago, which is what got me into the BTCC in the first place, so I have some very happy memories of the track. Hopefully we can make a few more this weekend…”

Andrew Watson, Driver, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK, said: “Thruxton is a unique challenge and one I’m looking forward to. As a circuit, it demands all of your attention and respect with so many high-speed corners that ask a lot of questions of the car, and when you really nail a lap, it gives you such a sense of satisfaction. It’s a lot of fun with little bits of time that can be unlocked here and there, and it’s somewhere the driver can make a genuine difference.

“We can’t really test at Thruxton and we won’t have much track time before qualifying, so it’ll be super-important to get our eye in quickly and begin building up confidence from the very first lap in practice. You really need to feel comfortable in the car if you want to explore the limits there.

“I’ve had good pace at every circuit so far this year, particularly in qualifying; of course the race results could have been better on my side of the garage, but the whole team is riding high at the moment and we’re going into each weekend targeting trophies. Both Aiden [Moffat] and Rob [Huff] have shown the Corolla is a winning package this season, and I want to tick that box too!” © 2024
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