TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK reflects on home race hard knocks

3rd July 2024

The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK duo Rob Huff and Andrew Watson concluded the opening half of the 2024 Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship campaign with a clutch of points-scoring finishes at Oulton Park, but it proved to be a case of what might have been on Speedworks Motorsport’s home soil.

After putting 70 laps on the board between them during the two free practice sessions around the undulating Cheshire circuit, the pair proceeded to qualify 11th (Huff) and 14th (Watson) amongst the 20 high-calibre contenders in the country’s premier motor racing series.

Both drivers bolted on the harder of the two Goodyear tyre options for the curtain-raising contest, in order to get them out of the way before switching to the faster soft-compound rubber for the remainder of the day. Huff went on to register his eighth top ten finish of the season, running in close company with fellow Toyota driver Aiden Moffat throughout.

In the sister red, white and black, British-built Corolla GR Sport, Watson unfortunately picked up a five-second penalty for a false start that restricted him to 14th in the classification.

With both TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK drivers moving onto the soft tyres for race two, hopes were high, but a chaotic first lap that left Adam Morgan’s BMW stranded broadside at Old Hall sent Huff and Watson skating across the grass and plummeting down the order through no fault of their own.

Huff took 11th at the chequered flag, right behind Watson, who engaged in a number of lively scraps along the way, including with four-time title-holder Colin Turkington. The race’s Manufacturers’ trophy for Toyota at least offered some consolation.

Further misfortune followed in the weekend’s finale, as a false start penalty for Huff cost him a second top ten finish of the day – relegating him to 12th – while reigning Jack Sears Trophy winner Watson was delayed by contact on the run towards Cascades, leaving him a frustrated 14th.

Christian Dick, Team Principal, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK, said: “In terms of results, it clearly wasn’t the weekend we had been hoping for and it’s no secret that we still have a bit of pace to find, but I feel we were also denied better finishes by circumstances outside of our control.

“As a case in point, race two could easily have had an alternative ending had it not been for the first corner mêlée. Josh [Cook] showed what the Corolla was capable of on the soft tyres by taking such a dominant win, and the only major difference was that he came out of Turn One unscathed and in a strong position, whereas Rob and Andrew had to take avoiding action, which cost them ground.

“The bottom line is that we’re all very committed racers and none of us are satisfied with fighting further down the field, so we will be leaving absolutely no stone unturned over the next few weeks to ensure we come back stronger at Croft – and ready to chase down some silverware during the second half of the season.”

Rob Huff, Driver, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK, said: “It was a very trying and character-building weekend, I think you could say! We sacrificed the results a bit in an effort to find a better route with the set-up and that paid off in so much as the car improved with every session, but ultimately we are clearly still lacking a bit of all-round performance to be challenging regularly up at the sharp end, which is where we all believe we belong.

“On the positive side, the whole team worked exceptionally hard as always and it was great to see Josh get a win.

“The reality is, it has been such a quick-fire start to the season that once we’ve got the cars back to the workshop after a race weekend, debriefed, re-prepped and then shaken them down again for the next event, there’s barely been any time left to focus on making significant changes – but we are keeping our chins up and our heads down, and we’ve got a few things up our sleeves that we’ve been working on behind-the-scenes which should help us to take a step in the right direction ahead of the second half.”

Andrew Watson, Driver, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK, said: “It was a tough weekend, and we struggled right from the word ‘go’, which put us immediately on the back foot. The balance of the car didn’t actually feel too bad, but we just didn’t have the speed. We kept making changes and trying things out on the set-up in an attempt to unlock a bit more performance – pursuing different directions with all four cars – but none of us found the ‘silver bullet’. All it meant was it felt different every time I took to the track, and we were never able to establish a stable platform.

“We’ll go away and use the break to have a bit of a re-think. Our form over the past two race weekends is clearly not where we want to be, so we need to spend some time analysing where we can make improvements and then try to hit the ground running next month at Croft!” © 2024
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