Andy Priaulx has reflected that a podium finish for BMW Motorsport in the 79th edition of the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours last weekend was just reward for the hard work of all the mechanics who rebuilt the #56 BMW M3 between qualifying and the race – though he does ruefully concede that 'when you have the potential to win, you want to win'.
BMW was indubitably one of the GTE-Pro front-runners at La Sarthe last week, with the car Priaulx was sharing with team-mates Dirk Müller and Joey Hand sitting second on the class grid when the multiple World Touring Car Champion came a cropper during the second qualifying session on Thursday evening, skating off-track at the Ford Chicane after hitting gravel and badly damaging the front of his M3 in the impact with the tyre barriers.
Such was the trio's speed, however, that the #56 still began the round-the-clock classic from third out of the 18 GTE-Pro contenders, less than a second behind the pace-setting sister machine, and although not enjoying an altogether trouble-free run in the race, Messrs. Priaulx, Müller and Hand did make it all the way to the chequered flag in 15th place overall and third in class – a considerable improvement upon the 53 laps completed on the car's Le Mans debut twelve months earlier.
“They worked really hard, really maximum attack,” the Guernseyman told Crash.net
, alluding to his BMW mechanics' efforts to repair the M3 after qualifying. “This team is great at getting the car through 24 hours – they did really well.
“I would say we showed great speed right from the first time we turned the wheel. I qualified the car on the front row, it remained on the front row for a day-and-a-half and we started third on the grid, so it was a nice lap. Unfortunately, I was caught out by arriving at that last corner with gravel [on the track], no yellow flags, no 'slippery' boards, nothing, and there was nothing I could do – I was just a passenger.
“That set us back, because we missed the night practice and we didn't set the car up, so we started a little bit behind, but the warm-up was good, the car was strong and overall we had the speed to win. You need speed and reliability, and at the end of the day, the car made it – it finished – but we missed a little bit of time halfway through the night with a misfire, and we carried that problem right through to the end.”
Indeed, as a prolific winner throughout his career and a man with more titles and trophies to his name than most, can Andy Priaulx genuinely be satisfied with 'merely' a podium? He insists that he can – for now, at least...
“I'm just pleased to have finished Le Mans,” the 37-year-old underlined. “It's a really tough race. A podium is fantastic, but like I'm sure the other guys feel – Olly [Gavin] and everybody else – when you have the potential to win, you want to win, so from that point-of-view, we're disappointed. It's not my decision [as to whether or not BMW returns], but I'd like to, definitely.”