Scot Rory Butcher will spearhead Toyota Gazoo Racing UK’s assault on British Touring Car Championship glory in 2021. The former Independents’ Champion will partner England’s Sam Smelt in the team’s two Toyota Corollas, prepared by Speedworks Motorsport.
“I’m super excited about this new challenge,” admitted Butcher, the 33-year-old from Kirkcaldy, who has already racked up six race wins, 14 podium finishes, three pole positions and five fastest laps in his BTCC career to date.
“Moving to a manufacturer-backed team has been a goal of mine ever since I joined the BTCC, and I have no doubt this will give me my best chance yet of truly fighting for the championship. I feel hugely proud to be wearing and defending the Toyota Gazoo Racing UK colours and will give it my absolute all both on and off-track.
“I’m also immensely grateful to my personal sponsors for their ongoing support in helping to make this deal possible, particularly during such tough economic times."
Butcher continued: “Despite 2021 being only my fourth full season in the BTCC, the Corolla will be the fifth touring car I’ve driven, so hopefully I can bring some of that knowledge to its continued development and perhaps even improve it further.
“It was arguably the most competitive car on the grid by the end of last year. The team definitely seems to have a proper handle on it now in all conditions — and both with or without ballast — so I can’t wait to get behind the wheel to experience it for myself.”
With five podium finishes from the last six races, the Corolla was the highest-scoring car during the closing stages of the 2020 season, and with a second Toyota now added to the Speedworks Motorsport stable, sights are firmly set on fighting for all three major crowns over the coming months: Drivers’, Manufacturers’ and Teams’.
That effort will be led by Butcher, who will make his 100th BTCC start in the opening race of the campaign at Thruxton on May 9. And the Scot is determined to put together a strong campaign aimed at lifting the overall BTCC title.
“Over the past 12 months, I really feel like I’ve matured as a driver, and I’m now much more capable of looking at the bigger picture and putting a championship campaign together,” Butcher stated.
“I obviously had a good crack at that in 2020, and whilst things ultimately didn’t go my way, that’s just part of the learning curve. Unquestionably it’s made me stronger. It’s all about racking up the points in this game — the podiums and wins are a bonus — and there’s no reason at all why we shouldn’t be fighting at the front right from the start.”
Butcher’s team-mate Smelt, the 24-year-old from Northampton, previously competed in the BTCC in 2018 and has since been honing and refining his racecraft in the British GT Championship, most recently behind the wheel of Speedworks’ new Toyota GR Supra GT4.
A double podium finish, pole position and fastest lap showcased Smelt’s raw speed in the fiercely-contested series, and having sampled the Corolla at Snetterton last November, he is now looking forward to reigniting his BTCC career with Toyota Gazoo Racing UK.
“We’re all delighted to welcome Rory and Sam to the team for the 2021 campaign,” Christian Dick, team principal, Toyota Gazoo Racing UK, said. “We believe they represent the perfect blend of youth and experience, and that they can help to drive us forward as we target all three titles for the first time in the BTCC.
“Rory’s calibre is clear to see. It’s easy to forget sometimes that he has only three full seasons in the championship under his belt, because he drives with all the confidence and panache of somebody that has been involved in the BTCC for much longer.
“His progress has been highly impressive. What he has accomplished since making his debut in the series is quite remarkable, and to already have two titles in his pocket is a phenomenal feat. Hopefully we can achieve the next one together.”