Andy Priaulx has played down suggestions the World Touring Car Championship is any weaker despite a reduction of entries from the factory BMW and SEAT teams.

The Bart Mampaey-run Team RBM will enter a new era in 2010 when it takes up sole running of the factory BMW operation following the withdrawal of both Schnitzer and ROAL, the Belgian-based outfit expanding to two cars for long-time collaborator Priaulx and Augusto Farfus.

However, while SEAT has also withdrawn its manufacturer support, its return in some capacity under the SR-Sport banner, together with the continued presence of Chevrolet, means the competition is just as fierce for former champion Priaulx.

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Indeed, looking ahead to the opening round of the season at Curitiba in Brazil, Priaulx is determined to get his year off to a good start.

"I can hardly wait for the new season to finally get underway," he said. "We are well prepared and convinced we will be in good form at the curtain-raiser in Curitiba. We will need to be, as it is essential to get off to a good start in this tight field.

"Right from the word go we must take every opportunity to score points. The competition is at least as fierce as last year. I like Curitiba. The circuit requires a flowing driving style, and is technically demanding. What's more, the atmosphere in Brazil is amazing."

Former Schnitzer driver Farfus is also feeling positive ahead of his debut with the team, not least because the season kicks off in his 'backyard'.

"Curitiba is my home town," he said. "Very few drivers in the world are fortunate enough to be able to sleep in their own bed during a World Championship race weekend. It goes without saying, however, that you do feel extra pressure as the local boy, but this is outweighed by the positive feeling of knowing that thousands of people are rooting for you in the stands.

"I am looking forward to my first race for BMW Team RBM. Everyone in the team is very ambitious. We are all doing everything in our power to achieve our joint goal. I have been made to feel very at home, and am convinced that we will be competitive right from the first race."