Having been forced to finally surrender his World Touring Car Championship throne to SEAT rival Yvan Muller in 2008, Andy Priaulx has vowed to reclaim the crown in 2009 – and maybe even throw in a few guest appearances in the BTCC and ALMS into the bargain.
Priaulx was helpless this season as he took on the superior might of SEAT's turbocharged diesel brigade aboard his BMW 320si, and in the final reckoning he did well to salvage fourth position in the drivers' standings, splitting the yellow machines with a reverse grid victory at Pau in France at the beginning of June turning out to be his sole success of the campaign.
Though eight further rostrum finishes along the way and the fact that he wound up comfortably as the best-placed BMW driver were testament to the Guernseyman's peerless racecraft and undimmed motivation, for a four-time champion (three WTCC trophies from 2005-2007 and European Touring Car Championship glory in 2004) it was ultimately poor reward for his unstinting efforts.
“Sure, the season was really tough,” Priaulx reflected, speaking exclusively to Crash.net Radio
during Wembley's annual Race of Champions at the weekend, “but we knew it was going to be like that and you've just got to stay really positive and try and take that energy into next year.
“You can't expect to win every year; you don't expect to win any year to be honest – that's just the way it is, but if I have a chance I take it.
“It was a good, character-building year, definitely. At the end of the day Yvan is a good driver and I've got a lot of respect for him, so it's not so difficult to hand over the trophy to such a good driver, but we want to win it back. It's on loan at the moment.”
Whilst pledging his immediate future to the WTCC, Priaulx did however admit that there may be some truth to the rumours linking him to either an eventual switch to BMW's new sportscar programme in the American Le Mans Series, or a return to the British Touring Car Championship – a series in which he sensationally stormed to a double pole position on his debut with Egg Sport Vauxhall as a sub for the banned Phil Bennett at Oulton Park in 2001, and triumphed at Knockhill with Honda during his only full season the following year.
“It's pretty much set for World Touring Cars,” the 35-year-old said of his 2009 plans, “with maybe the occasional guest appearance somewhere else. We'll have to see what BMW want to do.
“Absolutely [he would consider a future in the BTCC]; it's a good championship, but at the moment we're fully committed to World Touring Cars and trying to focus on that. Hopefully we can do a few guest races in British Touring Cars and ALMS – you never know. We're just keeping our options open, and working hard.”
by Russell Atkins
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