by Russell Atkins
TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE
Reigning triple World Touring Car Champion Andy Priaulx is facing an uphill struggle in 2008 as he bids to preserve his mantle as the modern-day tin-top king, with SEAT's turbocharged diesel brigade proving to be out of reach of pretty much everyone so far.
The Guernseyman did not clinch his three crowns, however – in addition to lifting the laurels in the WTCC's precursor, the European Touring Car Championship, back in 2004 – for nothing, and he has been displaying all of his legendary grit, talent, pace and determination to secure three rostrum finishes from the opening eight races of the current campaign to keep himself firmly in the title fight. The 33-year-old gave Crash.net Radio
his version of events so far…
Andy, the last time we spoke was prior to the Valencia meeting on the World Touring Car Championship calendar. Ahead of that, your previous best qualifying had been twelfth this season, and you had come away from a disastrous weekend for BMW in Mexico where you scored just one point. What was your mindset going into Valencia?
Mexico wasn't such a disaster for me personally, because I scored BMW's only point. I took a positive from that, because quite clearly the SEAT package is much stronger at the moment than any other car. That meant I went to Valencia just wanting to drive my very, very best, and to qualify P6 there was pretty rewarding really.
Valencia also gave all the drivers the first opportunity to try out the new wet tyres this year – how did that go?
It was an interesting session really, because we had tested in the dry and the car was pretty competitive, and then of course just before qualifying it rained. None of us had really had a lot of experience on the wet tyres; it took a little bit of getting used to, but I've driven many years now in this car, so I knew what to expect from the wet set-up and managed to put a good lap together.
Like you say, it was a third row grid slot, which was a considerable improvement on both Curitiba and Puebla. Was that more down to progress with the car or the nature of the circuit, or maybe a bit of both..?
It was just an unusual session – being so wet – and obviously changeable track conditions always do throw up a few unexpected things. I think at that stage BMW knew that it was going to be tough to qualify really high up in the dry; the wet session probably just brought a bit more uncertainty to the situation. We made the best of those changeable conditions, and I was pretty pleased with the performance really.
The first race produced a solid showing, leaving you on the front row of the grid for race two with the top eight reverse grid format in the WTCC. You then went on to lead off the start-line – did you think at that point that you could win it?