In Last Lap’s penultimate installment of our 2021 BTCC Team Previews, our writers are looking at the Toyota GAZOO Racing UK team.
Toyota GAZOO Racing UK have a second Toyota Corolla and a new look for this year. The hatchback was heavily-proven a championship contender by their former main man Tom Ingram.
Speaking of which, Ingram made the move to EXCELR8 TPC and Rory Butcher has come into the Speedworks-run outfit.
Sam Smelt also makes a return into the BTCC after his 2020 campaign at Speedworks’ British GT efforts in the GR Supra GT4.
See our BTCC 2021 Team Previews so far:
- BTCC 2021 Team Preview: Power Maxed Racing
- BTCC 2021 Team Preview: EXCELR8 Trade Price Cars
- BTCC 2021 Team Preview: BTC Racing
- BTCC 2021 Team Preview: MB Motorsport
- BTCC 2021 Team Preview: Motorbase Performance
- BTCC 2021 Team Preview: Ciceley Motorsport
- BTCC 2021 Team Preview: Team HARD Racing
- BTCC 2021 Team Preview: Laser Tools Racing
- BTCC 2021 Team Preview: Team Dynamics
The Toyota squad come into 2021 with a brand-new line-up in the form of Rory Butcher and Sam Smelt.
This driver pairing isn’t a new one on the BTCC grid however, as the two drivers were teammates at the AmD Technik Essex outfit in 2018, when Smelt made his debut in the series.
Butcher comes fresh off the back of a very strong 2020 campaign, finishing the year in the top-five overall standings with Motorbase Performance.
With 2021 being his fifth year in the BTCC, the 34-year-old can bring his solid performance from last year into his new team and apply that confidence to the Toyota Corolla.
Smelt will be keen on coming out the blocks quickly too after a tough debut campaign in 2018, where he scored no points finishes.
After two years in the British GT Championship, the 24-year-old returns and will be very determined to get some strong results. I believe the Northampton-born driver can do just that, he just needs to apply the potential he has to the Toyota.
Overall I think it will be a good year for the Toyota outfit, and I think we’ll see them fighting at the front-end of the grid.
Being one of the most successful teams with just one car on the grid since 2014, Toyota GAZOO Racing UK has expanded its fleet by adding another Corolla to their line-up.
After achieving 16 race wins, 41 podiums and back-to-back independent drivers’ and teams’ crowns, they are looking like a very real threat heading into this season.
Rory Butcher and series returnee Sam Smelt will be behind the wheel of the Motul-backed Toyota Corollas. Both drivers will be targeting the podium as an absolute minimum this season, with race wins and a potential title challenge on the horizon as well.
This was made possible by the team gaining a second TOCA BTCC licence from Speedworks Motorsport. This will be the first time that Toyota has been able to legitimately challenge the front runners for the series’ main title.
Rory Butcher will be especially eyeing up the opportunity to capitalise on the apparent pace that was seen in testing.
Overall, Toyota GAZOO Racing UK is looking like a force to be reckoned with this season. They’re ticking all the right boxes and both drivers are looking confident and happy with the car so far.
I was quite shocked to hear Ingram leave the team that ultimately surrounded its success from him, and pushing the Toyota Corolla as a real championship contender.
But that event is in the past and his efforts have enabled Speedworks to continue their works association with the Japanese marque’s motorsport division plus adding another Corolla to their line-up.
This is one of the major storylines for me in the sense that the one Corolla was plucky but outnumbered in its efforts, and that was an evident disadvantage that the team did not need.
Rory Butcher is an exciting new flavour for the team and will lead the fight for podiums and victories in the same way he did at Motorbase last year.
The return of Sam Smelt is an opportunity to take on the BTCC in something more competitive and so Christian Dick is adamant to show what Smelt can do after a difficult first season back in 2017.
Smelt has a lot to learn on his comeback, but Butcher is definitely no slough for him to learn from.