by Russell Atkins

TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE

Triple World Touring Car Champion Andy Priaulx is facing what is arguably the toughest challenge of his career in 2008, as he bids to make it five tin-top titles in as many years.

The BMW star's task has been made infinitely harder this time around, however, by the turbocharged diesel technology enjoyed by rivals SEAT, handing the Spanish manufacturer's entries a practically unassailable straight-line speed advantage. Famed for his never-say-die commitment, though, the Guernseyman told Crash.net Radio why nothing will be over until the final chequered flag has dropped...

Q:
Andy, you've had the opening two rounds of the 2008 World Touring Car Championship campaign now - at Curitiba in Brazil and Puebla in Mexico. How would you look back on the season so far?

Andy Priaulx:
It's not really very good for us at the moment in the World Touring Car Championship. I think everyone at BMW has worked really hard on the car over the winter, but clearly the regulations are a long way off what they need to be for it to be really competitive. We've got a bit of a fight on our hands. In fact, I would say it would be nice to actually have a fight, but much of the time we've got to drive around for eighth or ninth or tenth place, which isn't a lot of fun.

Q:
Those SEATs seem to have, like you say, an awful lot of pace, don't they..?

AP:
Yeah, they do, and the important thing as well is that they're really difficult to overtake. They're not so quick on the brakes and in mid-corner speed, but they're so fast down the straights that we just can't get close to overtaking them, so we end up having to follow them around.

Q:
Is straight-line speed the main area they've got an advantage in? Are you able to compete on other terms?

AP:
Yes; they're just a lot faster in all the speed traps - it's not coming from corner speed, so I'll leave the rest to your imagination...

Q:
You've got Valencia next on the schedule, this coming weekend. What are your expectations for that meeting?

AP:
We'll have to see. At the moment, it's very difficult going into a weekend and having any expectations at all. The only expectations are those of myself really, and I've got to try to keep sharp so that hopefully when things are equalised a little bit I'll be in a good position to fight for the championship again. My job really at the moment is just to make sure I get the car as good as I can have it and try to be driving at my very best. Anything less than that I'll be disappointed with really.

Q:
One very recent change for the 2008 campaign is that Anderstorp in Sweden has gone, and Imola has come into replace it. How are you looking forward to that round?

AP:
I think it's really good. I love Imola - it's a great circuit, it's really emotional and there's a good feeling there. Anderstorp was good, but it just didn't have the same atmosphere as Imola. I think it's all good; it's a little bit late to be changing the calendar, but luckily I haven't booked my flights yet!

Q:
Is it a circuit that may play to BMW's strengths do you feel?

AP:
I would say if Alfa Romeo were still in the championship then they'd be looking at a red podium, but I think to be honest it's not a circuit-by-circuit thing. Mexico for sure wasn't the best place for BMW with the altitude and the nature of the circuit, but I think at the moment most circuits are suiting the SEAT.

If you've got good straight-line speed, it helps you everywhere. The SEAT is well-sorted and they are quick in the corners too - they're just too fast for us at the moment. The problem is not just that the engine is strong; it's really a number of things working against us - Chevrolet, for example, being front wheel-drive have minus 20 kilos.

It's all strange at the moment, and it's very easy to be tenth, twelfth or 14th on the grid, because Chevrolet are really fast, SEAT are really quick, Honda now coming into the championship are going to be really quick too...whilst we're still carrying 20 kilos more than the front wheel-drive cars, plus we're only allowed a five-speed gearbox rather than a sequential gearbox. It's quite a strange situation to be in really.

Q:
Finally, you spoke earlier about fighting for the championship - which obviously you have won for the past three years. How tough is that going to be, given that you are as you say generally starting further down the grid this season?

AP:
All the championships I've ever won have always been hard-fought right to the end of the season. Equally there have been many years where I've had some good race performances and really been winning a lot of races and driving the championship from the front, but that means carrying more ballast. If you start well, you end up having to pay the price in the second half of the season, so I hope that if we're not so good in the beginning maybe we won't have the weight later on and we'll be able to have a good finish to the season. We'll see...

TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE

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