8th June 2021

Toyota Gazoo Racing UK is heading into the second outing on the 2021 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship calendar at Snetterton this weekend (12/13 June) in confident mood, as the Speedworks Motorsport-run squad bids to ‘kick-start’ its season around the longest circuit in the country.

A frustrating curtain-raiser in mixed conditions at Thruxton last month did not ultimately yield the results that the pace of the Toyota Corolla GR Sports had promised. Hopes, however, are high for a rapid fightback in Norfolk, where the British-built hatch twice reached the rostrum last October despite carrying significant success ballast.

Not only that, but drivers Rory Butcher and Sam Smelt both have a strong track record at Snetterton, whose 2.97-mile layout is characterised by fast sections calling for maximum commitment, interspersed by slow-speed hairpins where precision is paramount.

The Scot was a winner there two years ago and tallied a trio of top five finishes last season, while his young team-mate produced one of the best performances of his BTCC career to-date in the circuit’s ‘Diamond Double’ feature race in 2018, taking the chequered flag less than five seconds adrift of the top ten midway through his rookie campaign in the UK’s premier motor racing series. The 24-year-old from Northampton has since competed there twice more in the British GT Championship.

Butcher and Smelt both racked up the testing miles at Snetterton during the winter off-season and are now eager to return to showcase the Corolla’s speed and put into practice everything learned so far. Every moment of the wheel-to-wheel action will as always be broadcast live and in high-definition on ITV4 from 1100 on Sunday (13 June).

“I’m very excited for Snetterton,” said Butcher. “We did a fair bit of running there pre-season, and the Corolla felt brilliant right from the word ‘go’. We experimented with a lot of different set-up options, and I think we return in a very good place. The characteristics of the car really seem to suit the circuit, particularly its poise when tackling the medium and slow-speed corners – which is exactly what you want at Snetterton – and through the high-speed sections, too, it was very confidence-inspiring.

“After what happened at Thruxton, the goal at Snetterton has to be to finish all three races and put some solid points on the board. With no success ballast to carry, we can exploit the Corolla’s full potential in qualifying so it will be important to secure a strong grid position to give ourselves the best possible chance on race day. I know I have the car underneath me to get the job done, so there’s nothing holding us back. Let’s go out there and do this!”

“It was good to get the first race weekend under my belt,” added Smelt. “It was never going to be easy returning to the BTCC after more than two years away from the grid – especially at Thruxton – and the changeable weather only added to that challenge, but we stuck to our plan and kept working our way forward. It was all about re-finding my feet in the championship, and to finish the weekend by scoring my first points was a great confidence boost.

“The Corolla was strong [at Snetterton] last season, so there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be quick again and I know where I personally need to improve. If we can start further up the grid, that will immediately make our life a whole lot easier and I’m just really excited to get there and see what we can do. Hopefully we can hit the ground running right from FP1.”

“The mood inside the camp is pretty buoyant heading to Snetterton, I have to say,” concluded Team Principal Christian Dick. “It wasn’t the easiest start to the campaign for us at Thruxton, but we learned a lot from the weekend and adversity always makes you stronger. We have gone away, carefully analysed everything and know where we need to improve – and, most importantly, what we need to do to achieve that.

“Our pre-season testing at Snetterton was extremely encouraging, and obviously the Corolla was a very competitive proposition there last year. Throw in the fact that both Rory and Sam will be ballast-free in qualifying and race one, and I think we have the basis for a really strong weekend. We’re looking forward to kick-starting our season!” © 2024
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