ONE of the most eagerly-anticipated race weekends in the British Touring Car Championship calendar is ready to accelerate into West Fife this weekend.

For the 30th successive year, the race series heads to Knockhill Racing Circuit, where home heroes Rory Butcher and Gordon Shedden will be hoping to delight thousands of fans by reaching the podium.

Just one place, and five points, separate the pair – who are also brothers-in-law – going into the event, with Butcher sitting in sixth place and three-time champion Shedden tucked in just behind.

The opportunity to race on Scottish soil only comes around once a season and, for Toyota Gazoo Racing UK star Butcher, it never fails to be a special experience.

Speaking to Press Sport, he commented: “I always look forward to my home event.

“The fans are a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowd. When the touring cars come up, they come out and bring support, not just to the Scottish drivers, but to everyone.

“I think there’s a different atmosphere at Knockhill than there is at any other track on the calendar. I absolutely love racing at Knockhill in front of friends, family and sponsors.

“We’ve got 10 weekends in the year where we race, and nine of them are in England. To have Knockhill on the calendar is incredible for a Scottish driver – not just because you get to sleep in your own bed at night, that’s great – but it’s that feeling of walking into the circuit where your whole career started, and having most of the crowd behind you.

“You really feel that support when you’re walking through the paddock or when you’re out on track. They’re wanting you to do well and that’s a great feeling.”

When asked if that feeling ever changes, Butcher replied: “I think it does in the sense that, as a home driver, there’s another level of pressure there because it’s pressure that you potentially put on your own shoulders.

“I think, what happens over the years, is that you’re able to turn that extra pressure into a positive, and actually make it an advantage. I’ve found that in the last two or three years; it’s allowed me to find that extra tenth of a second in qualifying or that overtake in the race that paid off.

“What comes with experience is just being able to manage the pressure, turning it into a positive, and that’s why I’m most looking forward to the event.

"There's that energy that you don't feel at other circuits, but when you're racing at your home track at Knockhill, you can feel that atmosphere, feel the support, and it is just about harnessing that, and turning it into that positive, and finding that extra little bit.

"One thing about myself and the other Scottish drivers is we just feel very comfortable driving around Knockhill.

"We all started our racing careers at Knockhill when we were younger, and we have great experience around the track.

"It's a really strong grid of drivers, with lots of experience, so it's not like it's their first time there, so it's going to be a really challenge weekend up against the competition.

"Coming out first practice, when we head out the pits, we're going to be in our comfort zone. Hopefully that's going to give us an advantage."

As well as Butcher and Shedden, Aiden Moffatt and Dexter Patterson will fly the flag for Scotland across the weekend, which begins in earnest tomorrow.

Kirkcaldy native Butcher, however, is hopeful that he and Shedden - winner of the series in 2012, 2015 and 2016 - can both drive their way to podium finishes.

He admits that, whilst they each focus on the job at hand, there is an added sense of respect between them while on track.

"By the time I'd arrived in the BTCC, I had been racing for the best part of 15 years, so I think it did feel a bit strange to arrive in the British touring cars and to be competing against my family member," Butcher noted.

"I think both Gordon and I will agree it does feel quite strange racing against each other. There's a competitive element there where we want to be ahead of each other, but there's more to gain from just beating each other. We've got to be focused on our own objectives, which is to beat the other 29 drivers on the grid.

"When we're door to door at an apex, we certainly make sure that we both come out of the corner tgoether and there's not got being to be any upset. We've got a mutual respect there between us, which is like an unsaid rule, but, for sure, we want to be the fastest in the family!

"It doesn't really cross my mind where Gordon is on the grid. We're so focused on our own individual goals that he's just another driver, apart from when we're door to door, and there's just an added respect there. It's hard to explain, but you just have to give each other an extra inch.

I would love to be up on that podium and, I think if Gordon was to join me, I think it would be pretty special.

"We stood together at Croft at the last round, at the halfway mark in the season, and that was cool. Gordon won the race, and I finished third, and I would love to share a podium at Knockhill, that would be great. As long as I'm one place ahead of him!"

Both drivers have experienced the winning feeling at Knockhill previously, with Butcher's first race win in the series coming there in 2019, before he repeated the feat the following year.

"It would be lovely to replicate that, but I'm aware of how tough the championship is, and points are really important for me," he added.

"The podiums and the trophies are an added bonus. We're going to be approaching it like every other event, and the goal is to have as many points as possible.

"It really is a cut-throat championship, and the margins are so small. Especially around a track like Knockhill; we're going to have hundredths, tenths of a second covering multiple drivers.

"The depth is very strong at the front of the field, and it's just such a challenge. It's just such a challenge, and I think that's what's so attractive about the series, not just to drivers and teams, but to the fans.

"The racing is just so close. At somewhere like Knockhill, where you've got five or six corners, and you can see most of the track from one viewing point, it's an amazing spectacle and event."

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