Apr 02, 2021
Toyota Gazoo Racing UK began their 2021 British Touring Car Championship preparations in earnest last week, with three days of testing that left drivers Rory Butcher and Sam Smelt waxing lyrical about the potential of the team’s Toyota Corollas.
No sooner had the wraps come off the two British-built, Speedworks Motorsport-prepared Corolla cars than they headed off for testing at the Donington Park and Snetterton circuits. For Butcher, the 2019 BTCC Independents’ Champion and six-time race-winner, it was first run in the car since joined the team earlier this year. The 34-year-old Scot swiftly got down to business and was soon posting extremely competitive lap times.
Smelt – who spent 2020 contesting the British GT Championship behind the wheel of Speedworks’ Toyota GR Supra GT4 – had already sampled the Corolla at Snetterton last November, and was similarly quick to settle into the groove. The 24-year-old Northampton native previously competed in the UK’s premier motor racing series in 2018.
The forthcoming campaign, in which Toyota Gazoo Racing UK will for the first time do battle for all three major titles – Drivers’, Manufacturers’ and Teams’ – will start on 8 and 9 May at the super-fast Thruxton track, scene of a superb double victory for the Corolla last September. Every race will be televised live and in high-definition on ITV4.
Rory Butcher, Driver, Toyota Gazoo Racing UK, said: “The Corolla gave me all the right feedback and definitely lived up to my expectations, and after just my first few laps at Snetterton, I came back in and said, ‘there’s really not a lot I would change’ – it honestly felt that good. I came away feeling pretty buoyant, and I genuinely think we’re in a very strong place at the moment.”
Sam Smelt, Driver, Toyota Gazoo Racing UK, said: “Overall, these first few days felt like a little taster for me, but one that hinted at a lot of potential. I’m very optimistic that we will have a strong all-round package this year, which means it will come down to how quickly I can get up-to-speed between now and the start of the season. I’ll tell you one thing – I already can’t wait to get back out on-track!”
Christian Dick, Team Principal, Toyota Gazoo Racing UK, added: “It was a very constructive week overall. We put a lot of miles on the two cars and whilst Donington was initially pencilled in as a shakedown, we managed to complete that element pretty rapidly. That allowed Rory and Sam to push a bit harder and meant we could focus more on the detail, playing around with various set-up permutations to better explore and understand what both guys need from the car.”
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