Andy Priaulx – ‘The Michael Schumacher of Touring Cars’
March 19 2021
Earlier this month, Andy Priaulx took the time to talk to us on all things motorsport and about his career. You can find this interview by clicking here. I have taken the time to compile his words and some more information on Andy Priaulx in this article, showing off what is one of the greatest and most successful careers in motorsport.
Written by Sam Stewart, Edited by Esmée Koppius
Born in The Bailiwick of Guernsey on August 4th 1974 to a family invested in motorsport, Andy Priaulx MBE started his passion for the family business from a very young age. His father Graham competed in the British Hillclimb championship and introduced a young Andy to this, bringing him regularly to watch local hill climb races. At the early age of 8, Andy started fuelling his passion for motorsport through karting, and was a ‘consistent front-runner’ locally. As a teenager, Andy started competing locally in hillclimbs, in a car shared with his father. At the age of 17, Andy won 2 back to back Clubmans Hillclimbing Channel Islands Championships, putting him in the eyes of hillclimbers around the country. From 1992 to 1994, Priaulx competed in the British Hillclimb championship, picking up 2 wins across the board and a driver of the season award.
Andy’s first big breakthrough into the motorsport scene was in 1995 when he surprised many by winning the British Hill Climb Championship. The next 2 years were rather uneventful for Andy, with campaigns in Formula Renault and British Formula 3. 1998 was the year that Priaulx’s talent for sportscar racing began to fully shine through. Priaulx raced in 2 series that year, one of which being the Formula Palmer Audi Winter Series, in which he finished second overall with four podiums and a pole position to his name. The other series he raced in that year and carrying over to 1999 was the Renault Spider Cup. In this championship he won all 15 of the races he entered, in a massive display of dominance, the first real sign of the legend that Priaulx was to become. In 2000, Priaulx got the call up to Formula 3 to race for Renault to replace Jenson Button and was winning races against drivers who are still in Formula One today.
It was in 2001, however, that Priaulx got his break into Touring cars. He was struggling financially at the time, and got the offer to drive for Vauxhall Triple Eight Racing in BTCC for a one-off guest race to replace Phil Bennett, who had been suspended. Priaulx stunned the crowd by putting his Vauxhall on pole position in the first race. Priaulx had to retire due to a mechanical failure, but he had now proved his pace in sportscars. He got signed the next season to do the full campaign in British Touring Car, finishing 5th with one win to his name.
In 2003, Andy’s career in higher level touring car really took off. The BMW touring car team had paid close attention to Priaulx’s success, and when he was off racing in V8 supercars in Australia they offered him a drive in the European Touring Car Championship. This started a huge partnership with the BMW team for Andy, driving for them in all sorts of disciplines and driving their factory cars. Priaulx finished 3rd in his first attempt at European Touring Cars, and won the championship at the second time of trying in 2004. This year also brought great success in endurance racing, with Priaulx winning the 24 hours of Nurburgring.
2003 also brought the creation of Priaulx’s charity – the Priaulx Premature Baby Foundation (PPBF). Both of Andy’s children were born premature, and therefore him and his wife Jo decided to create the charity, dedicated to helping the families of babies that were born premature. In the 18 years since its creation, the PPBF has raised over 1 million pounds, and owns 2 apartments in Southampton, used to keep together the families of sick and premature babies. To donate to this wonderful charity, click here. A link is also at the bottom of the article.
The following year, in 2005, Priaulx won his first of 3 World Touring Car championships by 15 points ahead Dirk Muller, a huge margin for touring car standards, despite only winning one race this season. 2005 also brought Priaulx his first taste of Formula One, as he was hired to be the Williams F1 driver for the season, a car which he was very quick in. The following two seasons, Priaulx took two more world titles in touring car, becoming the first man to win 4 FIA Touring Car championships in a row. 2006 was the most remarkable of these seasons, as Priaulxs car was, as a base, far off the pace of some of the other cars. This meant that he had to show his raw talent and consistency, of which he had a lot of, to give himself the edge on other drivers to pick up that elusive second world championship.
Priaulx’s career with BMW carried on many years further. The 2008 and 2009 seasons resulted in 4th place finishes for him, before Priaulx chose to move on to different disciplines. At this point, he was driving every car BMW had to throw at him. Whether it was WEC, V8 supercars, or DTM, Priaulx could be seen driving sports cars of any type.
Andy found good results in the Race of Champions. For those who aren’t aware, the Race of Champions is a racing event in which drivers from all sorts of disciplines come together to race. There are 2 tournaments over the weekend of racing, the first of which being the Nations Cup. Drivers are paired up with another driver from their nation in order to allow their country to progress into the next round. In 2015, Priaulx was racing for the England 1 team, accompanied by fellow touring car legend Jason Plato. Andy Priaulx carried his team to win the Nations Cup, beating drivers such as Sebastian Vettel to get there.
I believe his time with BMW can be classed as one of the most successful driver/manufacturer partnerships in the history of motorsport. Priaulx brought BMW to 3 consecutive Touring Car World Championships, something never achieved by any other driver. He raced F1 cars; German, European and World touring cars; GT3s; LMGTEs; and anything else the team could throw at him. Andy excelled at every challenge thrown at him, whether it was winning around Macau, winning the Race of Champions or hugely outperforming his car in World Touring Cars. On the 15th June 2020, Andy Priaulx announced that he would be stepping down from most of his racing in order to focus on his son, Sebastian (Seb)’s, racing career.