Nerves of steel – Andy Priaulx gearing up for home races
This weekend's FIA World Touring Car Championship rounds at Brands Hatch marks the home event for Andy Priaulx (GB). The local hero's achievement of immediately following up his 2004 European Touring Car Championship victory with three consecutive World Touring Car Championship titles is unique in the history of touring car racing. However, a glance at the style in which the driver from Guernsey achieved this hat-trick of world triumphs makes one thing absolutely clear: Priaulx is at his very best when under pressure.
All the titles claimed by the BMW Team UK driver were won on the last race weekend of each respective season. Not once did Priaulx go into the decisive event with a clear points' advantage – yet in every instance his opponents came off second-best. "I think most drivers will tell you they work best when under pressure," says the reigning champion. "I am talking of the pressure from the other drivers. I just make sure I go into every weekend with a self belief and make sure I perform to the maximum that I can get out of the car."
Somehow Priaulx manages precisely this mindset like no other touring car driver before or since. His steely ability does not, though, appear purely coincidentally. It is the result of painstaking preparation that this father of two children has perfected. He provides an example: "When we raced in Dubai in the ETCC finale, I trained in a sauna as I knew how hot the races were going to be. I am sure it helped me cope with the conditions, but equally it gave me a mental edge over my fellow competitors knowing they had not gone to these lengths." This attitude enabled him to claw his way back from a twelve-point deficit to become European Touring Car Champion.
Priaulx, though, is not only immune to the nervousness which all too often afflicts other drivers, but is also an extremely talented racing driver. During the world championship show-downs at Macau's "Guia Circuit" – one of the most challenging tracks of all – in 2005 and 2006 he claimed pole position as a precursor to victory. Last season he delivered a faultless start-to-finish performance in the final race to capture his third world title. "As a racing driver you cannot afford to have anything in the sport that scares you," summarises Priaulx. This motto has stood him in good stead and ensured he has become the most successful touring car driver ever.
At the "Brands Hatch Circuit" Priaulx will thrill the British motor racing fans with a spectacular drive in a BMW Sauber F1 Team race car. This will not be the first time Priaulx has driven a Formula One car, but it will be the first time in front of a race crowd. While it is obvious he will be fired up for this special occasion, it is also certain that he will remain calm while exciting his many fans.