Scotland’s Rory Butcher will be back on the European Le Mans Series grid in 2016 and is confident of launching a title challenge with JMW Motorsport.
Butcher enjoyed a breakout season in sportscar racing last season, scoring two wins in the British GT championship and taking the title to the final round, before adding a debut ELMS podium at Paul Ricard and a top-ten finish in the Blancpain Endurance Series at the Nürburgring.
With greater experience of racing on the Continent now under his belt, Butcher’s task will be to continue building his reputation as a burgeoning British talent in the ELMS after re-joining the JMW Motorsport outfit and their proven Ferrari 458 Italia GT2.
The 29-year-old will again share with Rob Smith – having tasted the podium champagne together in France and having led at Estoril until electronic problems forced their early retirement – and Ferrari factory driver Andrea Bertolini, a multiple champion in the FIA GT, FIA GT1 World Championship, ELMS and FIA World Endurance Championship GTE-Am class.
The trio posted the third best time in the Paul Ricard official test in March and head to the team’s home race at Silverstone on April 16 in upbeat mood.
“My experiences last year in ELMS were fantastic, so I’m very excited to be back,” Butcher said. “We had a really strong result at Paul Ricard, where we came through to get a podium, then in Estoril we led from Lap One and were on our way for at least a podium and potentially a victory.
“Last year was a big year for me to gain experience racing in Europe, it’s just a case now of going out there and doing a full campaign. There’s a couple of tracks on the calendar that I’ve never been to before, but I feel so comfortable in the Ferrari that I’m sure I can be on the pace relatively quickly.”
Sportscar racing is a team game first and foremost, with inner-team chemistry a prerequisite for success, but after their productive test in the South of France, Butcher believes the JMW package has the potential to be a winning one.
“The mood at Paul Ricard was very calm and there was that element of getting down to business and making sure the car is absolutely right,” he said. “JMW are one of the top teams in sportscar racing, but it never hurts to have someone like Andrea come along and lift the squad, so I’m really excited about working with him this year.
“I think one of the biggest strengths we’ve got is that we are all team players. With the line-up we’ve got and the team we’ve got, I feel confident that we’ve got a shot.”