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Priaulx lets his driving do the talking

india Updated: Dec 04, 2007 16:49 IST
Martyn Herman
Martyn Herman
Reuters
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Andy Priaulx is Britain's most successful current racing driver yet outside his native Guernsey he could walk down any street without attracting a second glance.

Priaulx won the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) for the third year running last month, a stunning achievement restricted to a couple of paragraphs in most of the country's newspapers.

Considering WTCC is one of only three championships sanctioned by world motorsport's governing body the FIA, the others being Formula One and the World Rally Championship, Priaulx is entitled to feel a bit neglected.

The BBC Sports Personality of the Year award is approaching and the hot money is going on Formula One rookie Lewis Hamilton after he nearly won the title. Priaulx will get a mention during the Corporation's glitzy year-ender - maybe.

"I've given up trying to educate people. I'm just doing this for my own reasons now," said the 32-year-old Team BMW driver, who clinched the title in the final race in Macau.

"I get recognition from within the sport and that's enough."

If newspaper inches and celebrity functions attended were the measure of achievement it would be easy to conclude that Hamilton was the only racing driver worth his salt in Britain.

His face is on billboards everywhere, he is rarely out of the show business columns and his merchandising machine has taken on a life of its own. Without playing down the 22-year-old's astonishing rise, Priaulx takes a more sober view.

"Lewis Hamilton has taken a lot of attention away from the other British drivers," said the proud Channel Islander, who was a BMW F1 test driver in 2005.

BIGGEST DOWNFALL

"I thought it would happen with Hamilton. He was driving for McLaren, a car that lucky enough was fast. I just expected it," he said. "People have got on the bandwagon."

"They did it with Jenson Button too but Jenson wasn't driving a championship-winning car...if he had he would have got the same kind of attention I'm sure. That's just the way it is.

"Motor racing is all about marketing and I guess you could say that's my biggest downfall if you like. I've always let my driving do the talking."

Despite the riches and fame that driving in F1 brings, it does not appear to interest Priaulx, who relishes the cut and thrust and sheer "in-your-face" racing offered by WTCC.

He believes F1 is all too predictable.

"In Formula One there are four cars and four drivers really who can win the championship, the rest are picking up the pieces and may win if they are extremely lucky but more than likely they won't," he said.

"Then you have the wealthy drivers who are bringing in funding through nationality or connections. In Touring Cars if you want to be driving for a top team you have to be world class. In F1 you can fail because the politics weren't right or you haven't found the right money.

"In Touring Cars at least 14 or 15 drivers can win every weekend...it's really close racing, reverse grids and cars people can relate to. It also attracts the great drivers."

TOUGH TASK

Priaulx is now setting his sights on a fourth consecutive WTCC title with BMW, although with changes in regulations he knows it will be a tough task.

"The regulations were very biased against me this year," said Priaulx, referring to Seat's new turbo-diesel engine introduced during the season.

"Their car was substantially faster than any other car on the circuits and nothing was done about it. I just hope BMW don't get fed up and decide to do something else."

Priaulx will get the chance to show off his skills against some of the biggest names in motorsport on December 16 when he takes part in the Race of Champions at Wembley Stadium.

Michael Schumacher, David Coulthard and close friend Button will all be involved on a specially constructed circuit, along with rally drivers such as Marcus Gronholm and Petter Solberg.

"It's a great event, a real crowd pleaser," said Priaulx who will partner Button in Team England.

One man missing will be Colin McRae, the former rally world champion, who died, along with his young son, in a helicopter crash earlier this year.

"It's so sad that Colin won't be there," said Priaulx. "As a father myself I felt so sorry for his family. His brother Alister will be driving with David Coulthard and I'm sure it will be fairly emotional."