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Knockhill welcomes racing fans back to circuit

Gordon Shedden and Rory Butcher will get behind the wheel to compete this weekend.
Gordon Shedden and Rory Butcher will get behind the wheel to compete this weekend.

Thousands of motorsport fans will be making a welcome return to the Knockhill Race Circuit in Fife this weekend after Covid saw an end to the event schedule for 18 months.

Knockhill reopens this weekend for the BTTC with Gordon Shedden, left, and Rory Butcher in the driving seats.

The pandemic kept the circuit off-limits to spectators but restrictions have been lifted just in time for its biggest event of the year, the British Touring Car Championship.

Knockhill is the only Scottish venue of the 10-round championship and attracts around 15,000 spectators every year.

The drivers are delighted to welcome back fans to the circuit.

Motorsport enthusiasts and the owners of Knockhill have been frustrated at the ban on crowds at the 220-acre outdoor site when thousands of football and tennis fans have been allowed into enclosed venues for the Euros and Wimbledon.

Limited car and motorbike events have carried on at the circuit near Dunfermline, but with empty spectator areas and it has had a dramatic effect.

Gordon Shedden.

“Motorsport doesn’t seem to carry the same weight as football,” said the circuit’s managing director Jillian Shedden. “The lack of crowds has been hard to take and it’s had a big effect on our finances and the local economy.

“Events like the Touring Cars bring a lot of people into the area and it’s been deeply disappointing and frustrating to watch other events in the south over the summer when we couldn’t have anyone into this wide-open area.

“We’re moving on now, though, and can see the light at the end of the tunnel and looking forward to seeing the fans back here in force once again.”

It’s the highlight of the year for the Scottish drivers and the crowd makes it for us.

Three Scots drivers – Gordon Shedden from Edinburgh, Rory Butcher from Kirkcaldy and Aiden Moffat from Dalkeith – are competing in the 32-car championship and they always attract huge support from home-based fans.

Three-times Touring Car champion, Shedden, who is the circuit boss’s husband, is back in a Honda Civic Type-R after three years competing in Europe and is relishing having the crowds back at Knockhill.

Gordon Shedden, Brands Hatch, in May this year,

“It’s the highlight of the year for the Scottish drivers and the crowd makes it for us. They create so much energy and support – it’s like having a 12th man in football,” he said.

“Knockhill’s a great circuit for fans because they can get really close to the action and although the track is tight, there are overtaking opportunities. Added to that the competition is mega tight this year, and the drivers and cars are so evenly matched it’s pretty much a case of just getting to the end of the 30 rounds.”

Rory Butcher: “The crowd makes a massive difference for us.”

Gordon is currently lying sixth in the championship, two places above his 34-year-old brother-in-law Rory Butcher, who can’t wait to get back to his home track in his Toyota Corolla and the cheers of the Scottish supporters.

He said: “All three of us started our racing careers at Knockhill and it’s definitely our biggest event of the year. The crowd makes a massive difference for us and they give us such great support.

“I can hardly get from our team truck to the toilet without people coming up to me and wishing me luck!

“I don’t feel any extra pressure from the crowd because it’s my home circuit but I maybe put more on myself because I have high expectations of my own performance.

“These cars are very complex and I had a bit of a rocky start to begin with, but we’ve made some technical changes and I now get more feedback from it, which feels great.”

A great day out for fans

Rory has his dream job as a full-time professional racing driver and spends a lot of his time coaching other drivers and enthusiasts who want to get the most from their own cars.

One of the biggest challenges at Knockhill can be the uncertain and changeable weather which can see the proverbial four seasons in one day. That doesn’t bother Rory.

“We can cope with that – I just want it to be dry for the fans so they can have a great day.”

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