THE British Touring Car Championship roars back into action this weekend and a Knockhill family rivalry will feature prominently on the starting grid.

When the lights turn green at the Thruxton circuit in Hampshire to mark the beginning of the 2021 season, brothers-in-law Rory Butcher and Gordon Shedden will be battling it out for precious points in their respective bids to claim the title.

Both drivers are confident that they can be in the mix to be crowned the popular series' latest victor when the chequered flag is waved for the final time at Brands Hatch GP in October.

Butcher, 34, will make his 100th championship start this weekend and is chasing a maiden title in his fourth full season in the competition, while brother-in-law Shedden, 42, will make his 350th after returning for this season.

'Flash', whose wife, Jillian, is managing director at Knockhill, which is owned by Butcher's father, Derek, won the series in 2012, 2015 and 2016 but left after the 2017 season, going on to race in the inaugural FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR).

Both he and Butcher, who this year is competing for Toyota Gazoo Racing UK after switching from Motorbase, have their eyes on the title and, while acknowledging there had been some banter between them, the latter insists both drivers are focused on making a positive start.

"People like your friends, your family, you're always looking to have a bit of banter and friendly rivalry, so that's always there, but off the track we're cool, and on the track we are as well," Butcher told Press Sport.

"There's been a little bit of banter but to be honest I think the banter is coming more from other people. We're just focusing on our own situations and at the end of the day, there's another five or six guys who are real contenders for the championship, so you can't really keep your focus on one other person.

"Gordon's a triple champion so he's going to be one of the guys to beat this year. The championship has already been very, very strong, and people like Gordon returning adds another layer, another level to it.

"It's going to be challenging, a tough year for a lot of the guys, and we'll just have to see who can come out on top.

"I'm absolutely buzzing to get back out racing again. It's been a long off-season and obviously we had another lockdown at the start of the year, which is now starting to open up, so it's starting to feel a bit more normal, and then obviously the season's starting. I'm really, really excited.

"I've had some really positive tests and, in terms of feeling from the car, it's given me tons of confidence so I can attack the corners. We don't really know where we're going to slot in at that first event so we're eager to get out in that first practice session and get a gauge on where we are.

"I think this year in particular is going to be really tough. The strength and depth of the field, and also the teams and the cars this year, it's probably the toughest it's been in the last five to 10 years.

"It's just about keeping yourself in the game going into that final round in October and making sure you have a chance of fighting for that championship. I've done that for two years in a row now and our target's to do that but have a real, proper chance of winning the championship.

"I walked into a really great package and the team have experience of fighting for the overall title. The car is proven as well.

"There's always an adjustment period working with new people but they've been so good with me, and the early signs are that myself and the car are gelling really well.

"My plan is to get the first event out the way and try and just get some points on the board, start my season strong, and then we can start to push for taking risks as we go further into the year.

"Especially in this early part of the season, it's just giving you a foundation of points to carry you through the year. There's times to take chances and take risks, and there's times not to do that.

"We'll be looking to start the year off consistently."

Shedden, who will compete for Team Dynamics' Halfords Racing with Cataclean team, topped a pre-season test event at Silverstone last month and said that going for a fourth title was "the only reason I'm here".

Speaking to the BTCC website, he said: "Having a look up and down the pit lane, it's great to see the investment in the championship, lots of new cars, and a real strong field, and that's what everybody wants.

"I certainly think there's a dozen that will win races but let's see how many go to the last round with a chance.

"Normally, it's the usual suspects that end up somewhere thereabouts, with a couple of interlopers, but it's great. It's brilliant for the championship.

"The way with the championship is, with this amount of competition, it means that everyone's going to have to be on top of their game, no mistakes if they want to try and win the thing.

"We need to get off the mark; we need to score good points. With the championship this competitive, there's no room for a soft start or any leeway, so we need to hit the ground running, we need to be on the front foot and do the best we can from round one."

Qualifying at Thruxton is live on on Saturday, while raceday is live on ITV4, and online, on Sunday from 10.50am.