Toyota trio unleash fighting spirit at Croft

3rd August 2023

Birthday boy Ricky Collard sped to a hat-trick of points scores as the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship resumed from its mid-season break at Croft last weekend (29/30 July). TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK stablemates Rory Butcher and George Gamble similarly tallying top ten finishes.

Collard led the Toyota trio in qualifying to line up 12th amongst the 26 high-calibre contenders. On race day he placed 11th in the curtain-raising outing, before putting his soft-compound tyres to good use in race two to improve to eighth.

During the weekend finale, the Surrey-born driver – who turned 27 on race day – lost oil on the way to the grid which converted to a pitlane start. However, he gained a point for 15th position which aided a top ten spot in the championship standings.

Despite having a promising free practice, Butcher saw his qualifying efforts stopped early by a red flag.

From 25th on the grid for race two, the 36-year-old Kirkcaldy native ascended into the points within six laps, but a ten-second penalty for a false start dropped him from 14th to 18th in the overall classification. Butcher finished eighth in the final bout of the day, behind the wheel of his British-built Toyota Corolla GR Sport to consolidate ninth position in the title chase.

Gamble all-but matched Butcher’s time in qualifying to secure 19th place, but an issue as he pulled up to his grid slot ahead of the opener prompted a pit-lane start, which led to 18th at the chequered flag. The 27-year-old Nottinghamshire driver was involved in an incident during the second contest but was able to make race three.

After vaulting from 25th up to 19th over the course of the first lap, Gamble then maintained the progress to scythe through to tenth – cementing the seventh points-scoring result of his maiden campaign with the Speedworks Motorsport-run outfit.

Rory Butcher, Driver, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK, said:

“At times in the races, it felt like we were playing snakes and ladders! It’s difficult to pass at Croft due to the nature of the circuit, but we gained five positions in race one on the hard tyres until we had to pit and then drove from the back of grid to 13th in race two, only to pick up a ten-second penalty for a false start after the car next to me jumped the gun and I reacted.

“The Toyota was super racy in the last one and we made up another ten places, so despite not scoring that many points over the weekend, there were certainly positives and we can be pleased with our ability to fight through the field.”

Ricky Collard, Driver, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK, said:

“It was good to score points in all three races, but we still clearly have improvements to make in terms of both pace and reliability. I hold my hand up for qualifying; I was second-fastest in the final sector, but I didn’t hook the full lap together and it wouldn’t have taken very much at all to jump a couple of rows up the grid, so that was my bad.

“What happened before race three was such a shame. I was lucky that they brought out the safety car, which allowed me to catch the pack up – otherwise, I’d have had no chance at all – and somehow, we managed to blag a point. We’ve got some work to do, but we’ll keep pushing.”

George Gamble, Driver, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK, said:

“Another weekend that encapsulated the highs and lows of motorsport! I always enjoy Croft, but we had a couple of tough races whose outcome was beyond our control. That left us on the very back row of the grid for the last one, from where we managed to climb 15 places to finish inside the top ten. I don’t think I’ve gained so much ground in a single race since my ‘junior’ days, so I really enjoyed that.

“Sunday was a tough day for the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing UK guys and girls – they had their work cut out with the tight schedule, but they never downed tools and they did an absolutely unbelievable job to get my engine out and back in again to replace the clutch between races one and two, so I owe a massive thanks to them all. It was really good to reward them with such a good last race – that was a fantastic end to the weekend.” © 2024
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