Updated: Sep 29, 2020
The eighth installment of my series looking at each driver who competed at Brands Hatch in the 2002 season opening round at Brands Hatch.
For my next feature I am going to look at every driver who started my first ever British Touring Car Championship race and what they have achieved in their careers, both before and after.
As some of you may know, my first BTCC race was on the 30th March 2002 when my Dad and I went to the “Super Sunday” event at Brands Hatch, in which the touring cars were joined by the British GT championship as well as Formula 3.
I was only seven when I attended and immediately fell in love with touring cars, a passion which has failed to die down yet nearly eighteen years later!
The order I will be looking at the drivers will be the finishing positions of that race.
The next driver I am going to look at is the last BTCC driver which finished my first ever race, Andy Priaulx.
2002 was Priaulx’s first full season in the BTCC after making a cameo appearance at Oulton Park in 2001, deputising for Phil Bennett who picked up a one race ban for overly robust racing the round before.
It was a successful debut for Priaulx his first tin top weekend, having competed in the British Formula 3 Championship previously, as he finished his first race second behind Yvan Muller although he was unable to take the start of the second race due to mechanical issues.
The signs of promise were there and Priaulx returned to the BTCC full time in 2002 with Honda, the Japanese manufacture returning to the series after a year sabbatical.
Priaulx was joined at Honda by 2000 Production Class champion Alan Morrison in a pair of Honda Civic Type-R’s. Despite early struggles with pace and reliability as Honda continued to develop their car, by the midpoint of the season, the car began to show potential. The breakthrough came at Croft when Priaulx took his first podium of the season, before taking his first, and only, win of the season at Knockhill two rounds later.
In his first full season in tin-tops, Priaulx ended the season an impressive fifth with 116 points, finishing on the podium four times.
Although my memory of that year are not as sharp as I would hope, I remember watching the 2002 review video at the end of the season and celebrating Priaulx’s victory at Knockhill as I have always been a Honda fan, mainly due to their liveries which I have always found immensely smart.
2002 would prove to be Priaulx’s only season in the BTCC as for 2003, he moved to the European Touring Car Championship, driving for BMW Team Great Britain. The grid was littered with legendary touring car names such as Fabrizio Giovanardi, Gabriele Tarquini and Nicola Larini as well as guest appearances from drivers across motorsport including Formula 1 star Giancarlo Fisichella.
Despite the strong opposition from cars and drivers from across Europe, Priaulx faired superbly, winning three times on his way to third in the championship, only missing out on the title by seven points.
A year later, Priaulx went two better and became ETCC Champion, finishing the 2004 season equal on points with teammate Dirk Muller, the duo tied on 111 point. Priaulx however won the championship on countback, having won four times to Muller’s two, ensuring he became the first Briton to win the European Touring Car Championship since Tom Walkinshaw in 1984.
It would prove to be the final season of the European Touring Car Championship before the series was replaced by the World Touring Car Championship in 2005. Priaulx remained with BMW for the inaugural season, being joined once again by Dirk and Jorg Muller as well as Antonio Garcia and the legendary Alessandro Zanardi.
Although Priaulx faced additional competition with the series now on the World stage, this did not affect Andy one bit as he went onto win the first WTCC championship since 1987, eventually finishing on 101 points, fifteen more than closest rival Dirk Muller.
The championship was won by consistency, as Priaulx only won once all season, in contrast to his season before which was won by his total of victories. Once more Priaulx remained with BMW for 2006, with the same team as before.
Unfortunately for his rivals, 2006 was the same result as he won his third consecutive title as he beat Jorg Muller by a single point. It was a masterful season by Priaulx who continued this trend into 2007, winning the WTCC title for a third consecutive season.
This was a much more hard-fought victory as he was tied on points with the Seat of Yvan Muller heading to the final round in Macau. In the first race of the day, Muller got the best start possible, taking the lead away from polesitter Alain Menu however with one lap to go, and with Priaulx outside the points, Muller retired with a mechanical failure, gifting Priaulx the championship.
It would prove to be his final WTCC title to date as for 2008, he could only manage fourth as the younger more-nimble Seat Leon outclassed the BMW. Priaulx repeated this position a year later as 2009.
2009 would also see Priaulx contest in selected rounds of the Australian V8 Supercar Championship for Walkinshaw Racing as co-driver for David Reynolds during the Endurance events, with a best result of twelfth at the Bathurst 1000, Australia’s most prestigious race.
Andy retuned to V8 Supercars the following year, this time partnering Craig Lowndes in a Holden Commodore for the Gold Coast 600.
This was his only appearance down under in 2010 as his sole focus was once more the WTCC, continuing to compete for BMW. Similar to 2009, he and BMW could not match the strength over the course of the season of Tarquini and Muller, now in a Chevrolet Cruze. Despite winning the most races in 2010, 6 in total, he finished fourth in the standings for a third consecutive season, nearly 100 points behind Muller, following the WTCC’s over hall of its point’s structure.
As well as his 2010 WTCC commitments, Priaulx competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first time, making his in a BMW M3 LMGT2, partnering Dirk Muller and Dirk Werner in the Art Car however the team failed to finish, completing 53 laps before retiring.
For 2011, Priaulx switched to the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, racing for BMW Motorsport in the LMGTE Pro class, as 2010 proved to be his and indeed BMW’s last season in the WTCC. 2011 was the second and final season for the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup prior to the introduction of the World Endurance championship (WEC) and consisted of seven rounds at classic circuits including Sebring, Spa and Silverstone.
It was a successful debut year in the category for Priaulx, who won on his debut at Sebring, a major achievement as well as finishing on the podium a further three times concluding the season second in the standings.
Included in his 2011 endurance program was the 24 Hours of Le Mans, driving a BMW M3 GT2 in the LMGTE Pro category alongside Dirk Muller and Joey Hand. His return to the great race proved to be a much greater success for Andy as he achieved his first Le Mans podium finishing third in class, and fifteenth overall.
It was his last appearance at the race until 2016 as for 2012 he moved back to touring cars in the much more powerful German based DTM series. Andy remained a BMW driver, as the manufacture made their return to the series with a star studded line up. Andy joined 2011 Champion Martin Tomczyk, Joey Hand, Bruno Spengler, Dirk Werner and Augusto Farfus.
With such a competitive grid against experience DTM drivers, Priaulx failed to break into the top five however he showed his class, finishing in the top ten four times out of the eleven races, ending the season thirteenth with 24 points. It would prove to be his most successful season as he struggled in 2013, only finishing in the points twice, ending the year 20th with ten points, ensuring he left the series at the end of the season.
2013 was also Priaulx’s final V8 Supercar outing to date as he partnered Audi’s DTM star Mattias Ekstrom in a Holden Commodore at the Bathurst 1000, finishing the race an impressive tenth. The duo was the race’s only wildcard entry racing for Triple Eight Race Engineering.
After two seasons in Germany, Priaulx moved back to America, competing in the inaugural United SportsCar Championship, also known as IMSA, racing for BWW Team Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing alongside Bill Auberlan in a BMW Z4 GTE. Despite only finishing 33 points behind eventual class winner Kuno Wittmer, the BMW duo finished eighth in class with 298 points, finishing second at January’s 24 Hours of Daytona being the season highlight.
It was a season which further cemented Priaulx’s reputation as a driver who could step in any car and go fast, such is his versatility behind the wheel.
Priaulx maintained this feat as for 2015 he returned to the British Touring Car Championship for the first time since his series debut in 2002. I remember the excitement as the rumours of his return were confirmed over the winter. The buzz amongst the BTCC fans was intensified as he achieved pole on his return at Brands Hatch, although he was not able to capitalise on is fine qualifying due to fading tyres as the race went on. Andy eventually finished the season eighth, winning twice, despite missing the Rockingham weekend of the championship.
His reasoning for missing Rockingham was due to his other 2015 commitments, as he competed in the European Le Mans Series joining Jesse Krohn and Henry Hassid. The trio narrowly missed out on overall honours, finishing second by four points, despite winning the final race of the season at Estoril.
As well as his BTCC and ELMS outings, Andy also travelled to America once more to compete at Daytona, Sebring and Road Atlanta, three of the best circuits in America, for Turner Motorsport in IMSA.
In his three outings he achieved a best result of eighth at Sebring.
2016 was the beginning of a new era for Priaulx as he left BMW after 13 years, switching to Ford, with the legendary Chip Ganassi team for their assault on the World Endurance Championship. Once again, Priaulx was competing in the LMGTE Pro category, with his season including trips back to Le Mans and Daytona as part of the deal ensuring Priaulx was on the World Stage for the first time since leaving the WTCC at the end of 2010.
During the nine race season, Priaulx, along with teammates Harry Tincknell and Marino Franchitti finished the season fifth, winning twice in class in America and China.
It was a hugely successful debut season with Ford for Priaulx guaranteeing he remained with Chip Ganassi for 2017, competing in the World Endurance Championship once more. Priaulx was again joined by Harry Tincknell, although the duo was joined by Pipo Derani.
Similar to 2016, the Ford outfit won twice, the highlight being a home win at the opening round of the season at Silverstone. Priaulx and Tincknell also won for the second consecutive season in China, as well as finishing the Le Mans 24 Hours second, ensuring they finished the season third, just ten and a half points behind World Champions Ferrari.
2018 was all change for the World Endurance Championship as they introduced a “Super Season”, changing the start and finish dates of the championship so that the series ended at Le Mans. It meant the season started in May 2018 and ended in June 2019, and consisted of 8 races, two of which being the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Priaulx and Tincknell were once again regulars for Ford Chip Ganassi, being joined at selected rounds by Tony Kanaan and Jonathan Bomarito.
Despite their known strength as a driving line-up, the results were sadly not forthcoming as the strength of Porsche and Ferrari dominated the standings, as Priaulx ended the Super Season fourth alongside Tincknell with four podium finishes, including another Le Mans GTE podium to conclude the season.
It also concluded his time with Ford as the American Manufacture decided to withdraw from the WEC at the end of the Super Season, a real shame for both Priaulx and indeed all motorsport fans around the world.
2019 also saw Andy return to touring cars for the first time since 2015 as he joined Cyan Lynk & Co in the World Touring Car Cup, partnering Yann Ehrlacher, Thed Bjork, and Ehrlacher’s uncle Yvan Muller. It was his first time on the World stage in touring cars since 2010 and his first season with front-wheel drive since 2002, his first full BTCC season.
With all the field using very similar machinery, every small advantage matters hugely, and although Priaulx showed promise throughout the season, the car was still in its early stages of development, with Lynk & Co making the debut in the series.
Despite Priaulx’s relative inexperience in front wheel drive machinery in comparison to those around him, Andy ended the season eighteenth, winning once at Macau.
Andy Priaulx has always been a driver I have looked out for. Ever since I first saw him race in 2002 I have been a fan of his. I was a fan of Honda, and still am, so looking out for their drivers is natural, with Priaulx being one of the first Honda drivers I saw, he has always been a bit special.
It is amazing to look back on his career so far and what he has achieved all over the world in such a variety of eras and championships.
Now, Andy is not the only Priaulx I look out for as more recently his son, Sebastian (Seb) has been causing waves in the junior formulas on the TOCA bill, with father Andy supporting him all the way.
It will be great to see in the future if Seb can emulate his father, something to look forward to as time goes by!
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