Butcher 'delighted' with BTCC debutposted in BTCC15 | 08 | 2017

    FIFER RORY BUTCHER was the standout driver at the British Touring Car Championship triple-header at Knockhill. The 30-year-old from Kirkcaldy, making his BTCC debut, bagged two top 10s, was top rookie in two races, and was the highest-scoring rookie over the weekend. (Related: Champ Shedden bags BTCC podium in Knockhill finale)

    Twenty-four hours after making his race debut behind the wheel of the Motorbase-prepared Shredded Wheat Ford Focus, Scotcars’ Jim McGill spoke exclusively to the new BTCC racer … who was back at work shifting quad bikes at Knockhill. (Related: Rory Butcher BTCC shakedown interview)

    He admits the weekend went better than he envisaged; highlights the difference in driving standards between the front of the BTCC pack and the back; and reflects on his ‘robust defence’ on-track against three-time champ, and brother-in-law Gordon Shedden.

    Jim McGill: Back at work today?

    Rory Butcher: Yup. I’m shifting vehicles at the moment. I’m trying to shift a quad, but they’ve given me the wrong keys, so I’m going to have to go back to the office. I’ve already walked round the whole flippin’ track.

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    JM: Did qualifying go as you expected?

    RB: No, it didn’t go as I expected. We’d shown top10-15 pace throughout the free practice sessions. In qualifying, I was sitting P15 before the session was red-flagged, and I don’t know if anyone would have improved because the track was only getting worse in the weather.

    But then, during the red flag period, the track dried and I just got caught out with the tyre changes. I didn’t put the slicks on early enough. The experienced guys went straight out on slicks immediately after the red flag stoppage, and they got three of four extra laps to warm the tyres up and then start putting the lap times in.

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    JM: And of course, you got caught-out on your out-lap on slicks.

    RB: Yeh. Slicks on, and straight off into the gravel at McIntyre’s. It wasn’t an ideal qualifying session, but it was a great learning experience. I just need to learn from it.

    It was extremely difficult, and the guys with the BTCC experience certainly showed their class.

    JM: Race 1 was obviously a bit of a baptism of fire.

    RB: It was. Started towards the back of the field in P25. I was a bit surprised at some of the hits I was getting. I felt some of them were really clumsy. I found myself thinking, ‘well, this is touring car racing’.

    But then, as I learned later in the day, in Races 2 and 3, the top guys don’t resort to that sort of bumping and barging. Of course they’re assertive, but they’re relatively clean and definitely professional.

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    JM: So you could immediately see the difference in driving standards between the two half of the field?

    RB: Definitely. I came out of that first race thinking that some of the moves were a bit strange. I couldn’t understand why I was getting hit in certain places; and they were definitely intentional. I think some of the guys were trying to wind me up a bit. I just thought it was unnecessary.

    In Race 2, I got the 45kgs of ballast off the car. We had opted for Race 2 to run the soft compound tyres, so I was sitting on the grid full of confidence and ready to go off it.

    I knew I was going to be quick. I got off the line well. Sat for a bit behind (Michael) Epps, then got past him at the Hairpin on lap three or four. After that I just got into the groove and wound my way through the field. It was a great experience.

    The guys on the radio were in my ear; ‘you’re P11, you’re P11 … you just need one more place to be in the draw for the reverse grid ballot’. Thankfully Matt Neal went off the road and handed me 10th place (which ultimately became ninth).

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    JM: And the draw worked for you: you started on the front row of the grid for Race 3?

    RB: It was exciting and daunting at the same time. I knew I wouldn’t have the edge to stay in front of all the experienced guys. Once I got into the top 10, I could see the serious difference in pace between the top guys and the rest.

    The ability of the guys at the front was impressive. They were really on it. The main thing for me was that I stuck in the Top 10 throughout Race 3, and fought back to take a position from Dave Newsham.

    Once I got passed him, actually, if I’d had a few more laps I definitely could have got on to the back of Matt Neal again, and possibly put a bit of pressure back on him.

    But heh, I learned a lot. I got bumped and bashed around, but I’ve come away with two top 10 finishes, and a great insight into the experience of racing in the BTCC.

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    JM: In Race 3, did the car suffer damage in the impact with the hay bale at the chicane?

    RB: Nah, I don’t think so. The front quarter-panel was already damaged in Race 2.

    If I’m honest, when I hit that hay bale, I didn’t really feel it. Everybody told me afterwards that it was a fair bit of an impact, because it moved quite a bit because of the impact. I had no idea it was that big an impact. The car was fine.

    JM: And you must have enjoyed your, how shall I say, rather robust defence against Gordon in the final race?

    RB: Aye. Of course, there was all the build-up about us racing together. I was never going to be able to hold-off Gordon in that final race. But I definitely wasn’t just going to let him by, or make it easy for him.

    He got the run on me out of the chicane and we rubbed together on the run up of Clark’s. I held him off there.

    Then on the next lap he made a fantastic dive up the inside coming out of the chicane. I managed to get the cutback and coming along towards the Hairpin we were side-by-side. It was a great feeling.

    I felt, at least I’ve shown that I’m not going to back down for any driver, even the three-time champ, who just happens to be my brother-in-law.

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    JM: Does that basically send a signal to the rest of the guys that you’re happy to mix it with anybody?

    RB: Yeh, absolutely. I don’t care whose name is on the side of the car. I’m there to race, and my instinct will be to keep them behind me, or try and pass them back.

    JM: Overall, you must be chuffed with the weekend?

    RB: Absolutely delighted. There’s obviously some little things I would maybe have done differently, looking back on it, but it’s all a learning experience for me. There’s a lot more to come from me.

    JM: Did it go better than you’d imagined?

    RB: I think so, because I’d originally thought if I could get two top 15 finishes I’d have done well. I’d have been happy with that, because I know breaking into that top 15 is tough.

    But I definitely exceeded my expectations over the weekend with two top 10 finishes. And having that great run through the field in Race 2 was a lot of fun.

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    JM: You’ll obviously feel better prepared heading into Rockingham?

    RB: Absolutely. Going to Rockingham, we’re now tweaking the car more to suit my driving style; making certain changes to the set-up. We’re moving further along the road towards making a touring car driver out of me.

    JM: What changes are you making to the set-up?

    RB: We’re basically opening out the rear wheels with the toe to help the car rotate better in corners. Softening the front rollbar to try and generate better traction at the front. Stiffening the rear rollbar to try and pitch more weight on to the front through the corner.

    I was kind of looking for more rotation in the car through the corner and better traction on the exit, so that’s what we’re working on improving.

    Related: Scots teenager Sandy Mitchell wins LMP3 drive with Sir Chris Hoy

    Keep up-to-date with all the latest news by following us on twitter.com/Scotcars

    Jim McGill

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