31 December 2005
Review of the season.
Between 2004 and 2005, touring cars underwent a significant change, with the introduction of the FIA World Touring Car Championship – a series which replaced the European series and welcomed a number of significant new cars to the championship, not to mention a bulging grid of high quality drivers.
Nonetheless, by the end of 2005 the final result bore a striking resemblance to the previous year as Andy Priaulx, in a BMW 320i, snatched the championship away from rival and team mate Dirk Müller in the final race of year, the German having led the standings going into the season finale.
However, despite the 'same old, same old' impression, 2005 was an exceptionally exciting inaugural season with a total of 12 different winners from 20 very action-packed races that, for the first time, strayed to the likes of Turkey and Mexico as touring cars went global.
It was Britain though that reigned supreme by the end of the year when Priaulx made the step up from being European champion to become World champion for BMW Team UK. His title win was made all the more remarkable by the fact that he only won one race throughout the year, instead having to rely on unfailing consistency to get the upper hand on his rivals.
Even that win, at Oschersleben in Germany, came at the expense of another driver's misfortune when James Thompson was pulled in for a drive-through penalty mid-way through the race. His year included a further ten podiums, with just four non-scoring races to his name.
As well as his consistency, Priaulx was also able to shrug off his cars weight disadvantage, while the reversed top-eight positions for the second race rarely posed a problem. This was shown in Germany when Priaulx managed to claw his way up to second place in race two despite having won the first race – meaning he started from eighth for the race with maximum ballast on his car.
Heading into the final round of the year with a one point deficit to Müller, Priaulx anticipated a competitive scrap for the finish around the traditionally unpredictable streets of Macau, only to find his two second places and a double retirement for Müller was enough to give him a 15 point lead at the end of the year – the largest margin seen all season.
Indeed, 2005 was another year where Dirk saw the title slip through his fingers having been in a similar position in Dubai in 2004. Although he was more regular at the top of the podium than Priaulx with three wins at Monza, Imola and Spa, Müller also often found himself struggling more with added weight, something which stopped him from recording a healthy point's haul at each round.
Nonetheless, the German showed himself to be a genuine title contender yet again and were it not for a disastrous Mexican round when he failed to score a single point, Müller could well have ended the year celebrating his maiden championship win.
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