JACK BUTEL is hoping a fresh start will give him the push he needs to challenge for the Jack Sears Trophy in this year’s British Touring Car Championship.
It was confirmed yesterday that Butel will be driving for a new team – Team Hard Racing – for his fourth season in the championship and he spoke about the personal challenges that contributed to a frustrating campaign last year.
Recurring car troubles meant that he failed to finish in a third of his races last year and he came 27th overall in the standings, the Jersey driver’s worst season out of three. But there were more important things going on in his life that took away his focus.
‘I had to deal with a lot of stress. My girlfriend was ill and my dad was ill,’ he said.
‘Last March my girlfriend was diagnosed with cancer. Then, just as she was on the mend, my dad had a stroke.
‘It’s been really hard and I’ve spent a lot of time going in and out of hospital.’
Thankfully for Butel, both girlfriend and father have recovered and been given the all-clear.
He says the experience has given him more resilience and he is looking to take that into the coming season with his new team.
‘It is very exciting,’ he added. ‘They have been trying to get a hold of me for the last three years but they hadn’t always had the best car and experience.’
But that appears to be changing and two big factors convinced the 26 year-old to sign on the dotted line to race for Team Hard Racing.
Butel’s big ambition is to win the Jack Sears Trophy, which is open to all BTCC drivers who, at the start of the season, have not recorded an overall podium finish or won the Jack Sears Championship previously. It is a separate competition within the overall BTCC and has its own points system.
Last year, Butel finished seventh in the trophy standings, especially disappointing having finished third in this rookie year and fourth in his sophomore year, which hardly felt like progress. The 2022 trophy winner, though, was a Team Hard Racing driver in the form of Bobby Thompson, who will be one of Butel’s team-mates for the forthcoming campaign.
The big difference for Butel, however, is that he will no longer be liable to pay for any damage caused to his car during a race.
With his last team, driving a Hyundai i30 Fastback for Excelr8 Bristol Street Motors, Butel felt he could not push as hard as he would have liked with the financial burden and worry of forking out anywhere between £50,000 to £100,000 of his own money to cover damages. However, damages has been included in his new contract and he believes that will help take a lot of the stress away from his driving and enable him to push harder feeling more relaxed.
‘It 100% affects the way you drive,’ he said. ‘Now that’s one thing I don’t really need to worry about.
‘I normally go to race in Dubai every January but I haven’t been able to afford to this year because of the costs of the crash damage incurred last year.’
Along with Thompson, Team Hard have also signed Dexter Patterson, who also has Jack Sears ambitions, and Butel’s Excelr8 team-mate from last season, Daniel Lloyd, who won three races in the BTCC last year. Butel, who hasn’t been in a car since last October, cannot wait to get testing the team’s Cupra Leon.
‘I’ve watched the team grow stronger and stronger over the years and now is a great time to join them,’ Butel said. ‘They’ve been in touring cars for about ten years and they are spending a lot of money. They are ambitious.
‘The Cupra looks fast, there is a buzz around the team and, having met a lot of the staff, I know we are going to have a great relationship.
‘The Jack Sears is my main aim but I want to finish in the top 15 [overall]. I showed I’ve got potential to break into top-ten finishes and I want to do it consistently.
‘Last year was very frustrating. We would be in good positions but the car would keep on failing and we had constant reliability issues.’
Butel believes that he can put that year now firmly behind him. He has also got former professional racing driver James Walker on board again to help him get in the best shape physically and mentally that he has ever been in.
‘He looks after me,’ he said of his fellow Jerseyman. ‘He has really helped me mentally-wise and he has been massive since we got back together.’
It all means that Butel has all the right ingredients to push on and realise his potential this year. It may feel a little overdue but with a disappointing 2022 campaign behind him, Butel will go to battle with renewed vigour and focus.