The British Touring Car Championship makes its annual pilgrimage to Knockhill in Fife this weekend, and much of the attention will be on a 32-year-old race instructor from Kirkcaldy; Rory Butcher.
For Butcher, Knockhill is home. Not only does he work at the undulating 1.2-mile track as a performance driving instructor, but the circuit is owned by dad, Derek, and sister Jillian is managing director. Oh! And brother-in-law Gordon Shedden — a three-time BTCC champ — is in charge of business development.
Twelve months ago, Butcher arrived at his home event quietly under the radar. Now, having ditched his MG for a Honda Civic Type R, the Scot rocks up having won two races this season, led the championship and, after a frustrating weekend last time out at Thruxton, currently lies fifth in the title race. Triple champ, and former Knockhill instructor Colin Turkington, currently leads.
Despite the pains of Thruxton, a weekend Butcher entered lying third in the championship, just 23 points off second, the Scot is delighted the way his season has developed.
“It’s probably gone better than even I expected,” Butcher explained as he shared a family morning in the sun on the beach at Burntisland. “I’ve led the championship; I’m still in the top five; and we’re definitely contenders for a top three finish at the end of the season.
“My goal was to finish top six at the end of the year. If you’d offered me at the beginning of the season what I’ve achieved so far, and to be in this position at the business end of the year, I’d have bitten your hand off.”
From the opening round of the season at Brands Hatch, it was clear Butcher, his Honda, and his AmD with AutoAid/RCIB Insurance Racing team, were a competitive package.
Qualifying 11th, he finished 10th in Race 1, before finishing eighth in Race 2. In the day’s finale, Butcher crossed the finish line second. But hours later — after the podium ceremony — was handed the win when stewards penalised Tom Chilton five seconds. It was a bittersweet victory.
“Don’t get me wrong, a win’s a win. But I wanted to do it on-track, take the chequered flag and then stand on the top step of the podium,” Butcher admitted. Instead there was no champagne, and he received the winner’s trophy outside his team’s garage as the Kent crowds made a beeline for the M25.
Such was Butcher’s pace and consistency that another win wasn’t far away. It came in the third race at Snetterton last month. Finishing 11th and 12th in the opening two races, the Scot then careered through the field from 12th on the grid to win by 1.450 seconds, ahead of the Honda of Josh Cook.
“Snetterton was fantastic; especially having started P12,” Butcher explained. “My goal was probably to get in the top four, and potentially get on the podium, but to cross the line and win was a dream. An unbelievable feeling.”
Such were the celebrations that he missed his flight home, having instead to drive seven hours to Fife in a Citroen C3 rental car. “And I was smiling the whole way.”
Three weeks later at Thruxton, Butcher experienced the flip side when, having qualified sixth, despite carrying 42kg of success ballast, he finished seventh and a distant 14th, before a broken driveshaft as he made his way to the grid ruled him out of race three.
“Hugely frustrating; really tough. We just couldn’t get on top of the car in terms of set-up,” he admitted. “It was a really strange weekend. So disappointing. I ended up going from P3 in the championship down to fifth, and losing a bit of ground. It was a real kick in the …… yeah, well, you know.”
This weekend Butcher intends to bounce back in front of around 25,000 spectators, the majority of whom will be cheering for him and fellow Scot, Dalkeith’s Aiden Moffat.
“Racing in front of your home fans is always amazing,” Butcher smiled. “And of course, I know the track like the back of my hand. I’ve driven thousands of laps round it.
“I head into the weekend feeling good, but at the same time, it’s touring cars and anything can happen. It’s very easy to become an innocent victim of someone else’s mistake … and that can happen at the first corner. The competition is intense, but I’ll be doing everything I can to get on the top step of the podium.”