by Russell Atkins
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Andy Priaulx is not only the most successful touring car driver in active competition, he will also go down in the sport's history as a multiple champion, tin-top legend and one of its very finest ambassadors.
That's not to say he's entirely satisfied with his record, however, and after one European Touring Car Championship (ETCC) title and three successive World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) crowns, the Guernseyman is now hungry to make it five out of five in 2008, as he told Crash.net Radio
Andy, first of all how are you looking forward to the 2008 WTCC season?
A lot; I think it's exciting, there's a lot of great competitiveness now – the championship is very, very tight – and from a driver's point-of-view it's always nice to be in a championship that's growing and getting stronger and stronger. I'm very much looking forward to Brazil next week.
As the defending champion, do you feel that puts you under any greater pressure to repeat the feat this year?
Yes and no; it's always nice to have four titles behind you – so people know you can win championships and there's no doubt there – but I think the most important thing is I've got to enjoy my driving.
Obviously you're going to face a lot of opposition this year – from the new N.Technology Honda, the SEATs with their diesel engines, the Chevrolets – how tough do you foresee it being?
There are about 14 drivers who can win races, so the championship is extremely strong. I think BMW has the package, as long as we're playing with a level playing field. I think we need to allow for the first two or three races to get an understanding of how competitive we are, and what the FIA will do about it if we're still a second-and-a-half behind the diesel engines in the SEAT turbo. From then on I think it should be good racing for the rest of the year.
Talking of a level playing field, the WTCC employs ballast and reverse grids; what are your views on the format of the series?
I think it's a great format. I think the reverse grid works and I think the weight handicap system works, but we just need to have stability with the regulations. That's very important for the future of the championship.
You mentioned 1.5 seconds earlier – is that the advantage you believe SEAT will have at the start of the season with the diesel engine?