TWO of Fife’s top motorsport stars are hoping a passionate home crowd can help roar them to victory on a historic weekend of racing at Knockhill.
Taking centre stage will be Gordon Shedden, from Dalgety Bay, who is one of the front-runners in the 2012 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, which visits Knockhill for the 20th time.
And Kirkcaldy’s very own Rory Butcher is bidding for his own slice of glory in the supporting Porsche Carrera Cup.
Shedden (33), who has worked at the circuit since he was 17, is looking forward to being part of Knockhill’s special occasion.
“To come back and race at the track where it all started for me on the 20th anniversary of the Touring Cars is incredible,” he told the Press.
“Over all the years the racing at Knockhill has always been spectacular and provided lots of great moments.
“I’m sure this year will be no different, and I just hope I can be in front of all the spice and let it kick off behind me.”
Shedden is particularly looking forward to racing in front of a passionate Scottish crowd.
“The support that I get out there every year is unbelievable,” he said. “You often hear people refer to the crowd in football as being the 12th man. It’s a lot like that for me when I race at Knockhill.
“The nature of the circuit means the crowd is very close to the track so we can hear the fans cheering and see them waving their flags.
“They really get into it and it’s very humbling – but also a fantastic feeling.”
Shedden, vying to become the first Scotsman since John Cleland in 1995 to win the BTCC title, is lying second in the standings to his Honda Yuasa Racing Team team-mate Matt Neal, who pipped him to last year’s crown.
“There’s only a few points between the top three and we’re all fighting tooth and nail for every point going,” he added.
“Finishing second last year after going so close in the very last race was really heart-breaking.
“But I proved to myself that I could do it – it was just the way the final cards fell on the day that made it very tricky for me.
“The car feels good. The new Civic is delivering everything and more from what we hoped it would so there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be up there challenging to win the championship at the end of the year.”
For Porsche hopeful Butcher - a racing instructor at Knockhill - the weekend promises to be a real family affair.
Not only is the 26-year-old the son of circuit owner Derek, his big sister, Jillian, the circuit’s managing director, is married to BTCC star Shedden.
Butcher, who races for Celtic Speed, said: “It’s a massive weekend for the circuit.
“I remember I was just a tiny little guy when the Touring Cars first came here. There was big hype about it – and it’s the same today.
“My dad has built the circuit up and has seen it progress over the years, with better infrastructure and better facilities for the public.
“He’s handed it mainly over to my sister now, so it will be quite nice for him to see her take control of the 20th anniversary weekend.
“It will probably be quite an emotional weekend for the whole family.”
Butcher’s main focus come Sunday, however, will be on securing points in the Porsche Carrera Cup Championship.
“I just can’t wait to get the Porsche out in front of my home crowd, my family and friends and colleagues from Knockhill,” he said.
“It will be great to have all my local sponsors at the event as well and give something back to them. I’ll be approaching Knockhill as I do any other circuit by going out there and just trying my best.
“If I’m the best guy on day then I’ll win, but if other guys are that little bit quicker I might have to settle for being further down. I’ll be trying to scratch my brains to think of all the local knowledge I’ve got and try to use it to my advantage.
“It would mean a lot if I could win – I would probably give back the Croft wins I had earlier in the year and have them here if I could!”
Butcher is currently fourth in the Carrera Cup standings but still has an outside chance of winning the title.
“This season has been really good,” he said. “From the start of the year the whole team just been really confident.
“We’re not trying to be heroes, we’re just chipping away, finding the resuilts as we go along and trying our hardest in each race.
“We’ve had two wins already and two third places so we’re right in there at the top end.
“We had a tough time last year and we struggled to break into the top eight reguarly but we were treating that as an apprenticeship because I was still learning the car and the tracks.
“This season, there’s been a new level of confidnece and a better understanding of the car and the circuits – and that’s helped us.”
Shedden and Butcher will each take part in their respective qualifying sessions on Saturday, before the big race day on Sunday.