You had a very successful karting adventure, leading to the world championships in a factory team. Can you give us some insight into the level of competition the WKC, both in terms of opposition and competing with budgets?
A lot of people have a massive misconception of karting but the only way to describe World Karting is to compare it to F1. World Karting is mini F1 but with 100+ competitors in each class. The theory is, the same the limit of performance is developed the same and so on. Every F1 driver has come through world karting. In terms of level of competition, I was racing the best in the world on the best tracks in the world, the best mechanics, the best chassis, everything was at the peak of its performance only it was a kart, not an F1 car. So to be competitive you had to work hard especially as you were racing against people with 3 times your budget. In my era of karting it was possibly one of the hardest times. I remember one race at Winter Cup 2008 in Lonato, Italy. There was 160 entries in my class alone. I finished 6th in that race and the equipment wasn’t as good as what I had the year previous. Some of the drivers I was lucky to race against were, Will Stevens (Manor F1) , Oliver Roland (GP2) , Robin Frijns (Sauber F1) , Roberto Mehri (Manor F1). I was lucky enough at the end of 2006 to be team mates with the great Jules Bianchi, that’s just to name a few off the top of my head, but it gives you some insight into the standard of drivers. I could never compete with the budgets. Guys I raced against spent every day at the track pretty much. The race weekend budgets were similar across the board but I could never do the testing unfortunately. That was the big difference. Budgets were between €120k – €600k depending on team and testing.
What was the highlight of your early days in karting?
I suppose the main highlight of my early days was my 2005 season and my final one here in Ireland. That year I was Irish Junior Kart champion, Irish Open Plate Champion, and IRL Plate Champion. The main championship was 12 races I could only do 8 due to UK and European Commitments. I had 8/8 poles, 16/16 heat wins and 7/8 final wins. Not a bad year almost 100%, I only had to finish the last race to become champion.
The big switch, circuit racing in the ITCC, followed by a season in the Seat Supercup and plans to return to the ITCC this season I believe. Talk me through the transition and the decision of ITCC to begin with followed by the Seat Supercup.
Having stopped karting in 2008 I always wanted to race a car. I bought a Clio 182 in 2010 and raced one weekend in ITCC. The car wasn’t anywhere near good enough. I then bought a Honda Integra and done most of 2012 season. Then we built a Civic EG after doing a deal to drive for the TF, only doing a selective few races over 2 years. Last year I had no plans to compete as the Honda CR-Z was in the pipeline. I went to see Eoin Murray about something for it and I joked about asking him had he my car ready yet. Funny enough a conversation started and 2 days later I was in Mondello the Saturday morning for a 2 session Shake down before Quali. It was only meant to be 1 weekend but it turned into a nearly full year. I missed Kirkistown due to a dislocated shoulder.
The reason on going back to ITCC is mainly due to my long standing partnership with the TF Racing Department and I’m committed to helping them achieve their business goals.
You are building a new Honda CR-Z for the 2017 season. Usually when people hear of a Honda and the ITCC you would be almost certain of an Integra or a Civic, tell us more about the CR-Z and the decision behind building one.
Something new, Something Different and still a Honda!
You can follow Rob Butler’s season here on Topgear.ie and RobButlerRacing.com.