Andy Priaulx writes:
It is hard to believe that just over eight months ago I was in Daytona and getting ready for the first ‘adventure’ in my new racing life in America. What a journey that has taken me on, and now my final race of the season in Road Atlanta is over and I am contemplating just what has happened to me over those months.
Sadly the end of the season wasn’t the same high the start was. I could not have hoped for a better start with a podium in that iconic 24 hour race in Florida. Now I can’t imagine a much worse end than seeing the BMW Z4 GTLM sitting back in the truck awning with less than half of the ten-hour race run with a broken engine.
It is a disappointing end to the year, but we have led the championship at times and we came here still in with a chance of the title. We have all done a good job to get this far without having any technical issues with this car. However, sometimes that is the way it goes in racing and you can just be plain unlucky. For ten races the car has run faultlessly, while the team and BMW have given us a brilliant package. Okay lately we have had issues out of our control with the Balance of Performance, but even in the race we still had a chance when the Corvette and the Porsche ran into the Ferrari in the pit lane. At that point we looked like we were in a strong position to really finish high up in the points. Who knows what was possible, and perhaps we could have come away from here near the top in the championship. Anyway the reality is we have had a good, solid year, I can take a lot of positives from that, I have learnt a lot about the championship and am really looking forward to the future to see what that brings.
Before I sign off my final column about the season I want to recap on a few highs for me. As I said, I arrived in Georgia for Petit Le Mans with Bill Auberlen and myself still in with a mathematical chance of the championship. Okay we are realists and knew the others had to have disasters, but I have known stranger things than that happen in my decades in motorsport. It was great to have our old mate Joey Hand drafted in to help us for this final endurance race. I could not think of two better drivers and nicer people to have on my side in such a situation. Bill and myself had been side by side in the black number 55 car all year, and Joey has come in for the long distances events here in Road Atlanta as well as at the start of the season in Daytona and Sebring. We complement each other and know what we all like in the car. The saying ‘one size fits all’ comes to mind when I think about the set up of the car and the way we all like to drive it.
Also I have the best crew behind me in the guys from BMW Team RLL. I have known them for a while as a ‘guest’ driver over the years, but my respect for them has grown race by race as I have seen them work and prepare the car. They are like our boss Bobby Rahal, as they want to win and will put in any and every effort that will allow us to do that. Sadly we were thwarted by some of the championship’s constraints, but they never threw in the towel and I knew they were making sure I could get every last piece of power out of the car. On many occasions we were very much punching above our weight, and I know the two podiums and the Watkins Glen pole are testimony to their work ethics.
I have now been a BMW driver for over a dozen years so I know just how lucky I am to be racing one of these amazing machines. Each race we had a great contingent come from BMW Motorsport in Munich and, again, you could not ask for a better group of professionals in your pit over a race weekend.
While motorsport is a serious business, my year in America has been anything but all work and no play. This gave me the opportunity to spend precious time with the family exploring this great country. As we travelled down the long highways and through some great countryside in our motorhome I knew I was very privileged to be able to do that. As a family we cherished this special time and I think the kids especially have learnt an awful lot about the big world out there.
Now it is back home to Guernsey, but I doubt I shall have much down time with the family. I am often at the iZone Driver Performance Centre at Silverstone run by my old mate John Pratt. I love working there with the young drivers and showing them some of the tricks of the trade. I have some promising youngsters who I have taken under my wing, and am looking forward to seeing them progress and hopefully be as successful as I have been in the sport I love.