by Russell Atkins
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Andy Priaulx insists that he is more than satisfied with his personal level of performance over the first four rounds of the 2008 World Touring Car Championship campaign, even if he admits precious little can be done about the SEAT 'steamroller' effect until the regulations are equalised.
The BMW Team UK star is chasing a fourth consecutive WTCC title this year, what would in essence be his fifth straight crown, having triumphed in the WTCC's forerunner – the European Touring Car Championship – back in 2004. A runner-up spot and fourth place finish from the opening meeting at Curitiba in Brazil was a solid start – particularly in the face of the sizeable advantage enjoyed by SEAT's five-strong, turbocharged diesel brigade.
That was followed, though, by a frustrating outing in round two at Puebla, where Priaulx struggled to twelfth on the grid and could salvage just a sole point from the weekend's two races – not that he was downhearted about the outcome, he stressed.
“Mexico wasn't such a disaster for me personally,” he told Crash.net Radio
, “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.
“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.
“Obviously changeable track conditions always do throw up a few unexpected things, and 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.”
That was converted into seventh place in the opening encounter around the Spanish circuit, and with the reverse top eight grid system that the WTCC employs, an excellent start saw the 33-year-old vault past pole-sitter Alain Menu into the lead when the lights went out to signal the start of race two. Though he would ultimately slip back behind the Chevrolets of both the Swiss ace and team-mate Rob Huff before the 13 laps were out, his second rostrum finish of the season was still nothing to be sniffed at.