Rory Butcher and Sam Smelt will spearhead Toyota Gazoo Racing UK’s assault on British Touring Car Championship glory in 2021, after the team confirmed that the former Independents’ Champion and series returnee will pilot its pair of Toyota Corollas throughout the forthcoming campaign.
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 9 May. One of the most highly-rated drivers in the paddock, the 33-year-old from Kirkcaldy has to-date achieved six victories, 14 podium finishes, three pole positions and five fastest laps, and has been a title protagonist in two of his three full seasons in the UK’s premier motor racing series.
The 2019 Independents’ Champion and Jack Sears Trophy winner has placed inside the top five in the overall standings in each of the past two years, and entered the current off-season on a high by winning the final race of 2020.
Butcher’s move to Toyota Gazoo Racing UK will mark his debut for a Manufacturer-backed outfit, and he will be partnered on the driving front by Smelt, who previously competed in the BTCC in 2018, only his second season out of karts.
Christian Dick, Team Principal, Toyota Gazoo Racing UK, said:
“We’re all delighted to welcome Rory and Sam to the team for the 2021 campaign. 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 only has 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.
Rory Butcher, Driver, Toyota Gazoo Racing UK, said:
“I’m super excited about this new challenge! Moving to a Manufacturer-backed team has been a goal of mine ever since I joined the BTCC, and I have no doubt that 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’ve known Christian [Dick] for some time, going back to when we raced against each other in British GT in 2010. Over the past couple of years, we had a few casual conversations about maybe working together at some stage, and when the opportunity finally presented itself, I jumped at it. 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.
“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. I obviously had a good crack at that in 2020, and whilst things didn’t ultimately go my way, that’s just part of the learning curve and it has unquestionably 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,” concluded Butcher.
Source: Toyota Gazoo Racing UK