"To me, you are just ballast," Andy Priaulx warns with a mischievous smile just before he climbs in the BMW 320si World Touring Car that has placed him well in contention for this year's title.

He is about to get reacclimatised to the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit he has grown up racing on through the Renault Spider Cup, the British Formula 3 Championship and the British Touring Car Championship.

The only thing different about this blast around the Kent circuit is the fact that there will be a journalist sat alongside the double World Champion, the said journalist confidently smiling as the fearsome engine is sprung into life. Even a rather ungraceful attempt to thread his way into the passenger seat through a deceptively small opening has not dulled this journalist's enthusiasm.

Smiling turns to concern as Andy plants the throttle, the fact that his garage is near the end of the pit lane meaning there is no need for a speed limiter, the Guernseyman slithering his way around a concrete chicane on the way out, proceeding relentlessly towards Paddock Hill Bend.

The smile has returned, although the stomach feels as though it has been left somewhere in the pit lane as the car bottoms out around the first corner. Indeed, Andy is not holding back, pointing the car at the cones placed on the apexs, braking fearsomely late and skipping over kerbs that are more scathing than they look. Just two laps of the circuit over with and Andy brings the car down to a more docile speed in the pit lane before coming to a stop, getting ready to silence another confident journalist.

With the stomach back in its rightful place, calmer surroundings greet my next meeting with Andy, this time to answer a few questions about his return to home soil for the first time since being crowned a World Champion for the second time in a row.

"It is nice to be coming home," he says leaning back into his chair. "I grew up racing in Britain so it feels like home and when you are home soil you have that piece of mind that you know the circuit well and you know what to do and what not to do.

"At the same time though there is the added pressure of the media attention and the attention from fans as well. Everyone seems to come to one race and it is your home race, so it is going to be a big one."

Reflecting on the day's activities, Andy admits he enjoys indulging in some of the corporate activities that often come with his World Champion status. Not that he is any less professional.

"It is great on a day like today because I don't have any pressure. I can do what I want to do and I can just enjoy and have some fun. At every race weekend I am a completely different character and I can be a little monster when things aren't going right.

"My team are very demanding and they want me to give them as much information as possible all the time on the car, so it is a full-time job just to manage your thought processes and working method with the team. Today, is just fun and I am enjoying it."

Still, despite his love for racing on home soil, racing in Britain has been a tale of frustration and bad luck - interestingly two areas in which Andy is generally better than most when not faced with the prospect of impressing his native fans.

Racing at Silverstone in 2005, Andy was heading for victory when his tyre delaminated in the closing laps and forced him into retirement. Even more frustrating was the error he made whilst leading last year's race at Brands Hatch, the treacherous weather conditions catching him out at racing speed.

"Sometimes I want to win too badly! It is all about controlled aggression and what happened in the second race last year was a little bit unlucky as well because I had driven really well to get the heaviest car on the grid into the top eight and I made a mistake. But we had a massive downpour under the safety car and I was the first arrive at a corner with standing water and I went straight off on it. It was a bit 50:50.

"The more I want it, the worse it can be though sometimes, so I just need to drive two really good races and, firstly, take home good points, and secondly, see if I can get a home win, which would be tremendous."

Nonetheless, that disappointment did not halt his charge to a second world title by the end of the season. Roll on to 2007 though and Andy is again in a strong position to make it a hat-trick of triumphs, the 33-year-old currently just a single point behind team-mate and championship leader Augusto Farfus Jr. in the standings with only six races remaining.

As Andy points out though, he could have had a larger margin had he not been involved in clashes at Zandvoort and Brno, and although only one win has come this season at Porto, six podiums and 13 points finishes in 16 races indicate Andy's devastating consistency.

"It has been a brilliant season," he muses. "I should be sitting here with a healthy points lead really. I was taken out at Brno whilst on the front row with the heaviest car and the best BMW that had weight on board, while at Zandvoort I was leading and I was driven off the road. I can't control that, but I could have had three or four wins this season.

"There have been other races where I have followed a slower team-mate but I could not find a way past, like Valencia, Porto, Pau and Oschersleben. So I know the speed it there, it is just a matter of having a bit of luck and if that comes in the next few races, I will be a happy man."

With success comes the penalty though and in the WTCC that is ballast. But what marks Andy and BMW out from there rivals is the ability to manage that extra weight.

Indeed, such has been Andy's status as a front runner over the course of two and a half seasons that he has rarely been able to go a race weekend without additional weight laden on his car. So much so, he doesn't even think about it anymore.

"I just ignore it now and drive as fast as I can. It is something you learn to live with. I have spent my whole career getting to where I am, driving for one of the best manufacturers in the world with BMW, and I am happy to have a great job.

"Ballast can work with you or against you and the WTCC really isn't a championship for egos because the fastest drivers down always win the races and quite often the slower drivers win the races with the reverse grid and less ballast on board.

"I would rather win the championship rather than win three races but feature very badly in the rest. To win with the lightest car isn't that rewarding."

Looking ahead to his home round, Andy faces a tough task against some formidable competition.

The likes of fellow race winners James Thompson and Rob Huff also enjoy home advantage in their respective Alfa Romeo and Chevrolet entries, while SEAT come to Brands Hatch with their diesel-powered SEAT Leon, a car that has already tasted success in only its second meeting.

It is a car that has prompted discussion amongst the drivers, the car's additional weight seemingly being balanced out again by the fact it displays far more torque than its direct rivals. Andy admits he is sceptical about the situation, especially since it is beginning to confuse the situation of regulations.

"I can't influence anything but at the end of the day, when they turn up the turbo boost in qualifying then they are really quick I just like putting a good lap together and placing it on pole position, with or without boost, with or without weight.

"You just have to do your job right. We just have to be careful with the rules because every car is different and is getting difficult for fans to understand. It is like 'he is driving a diesel with 100kilos' and 'he is driving a petrol with a high compression ratio' and 'he has a front splitter'.

"It is just getting complicated, so lets keep the cars the same and make the best driver win."

For the thousands of British fans set to make the trip to Brands Hatch, they hope that that best driver will indeed win...