Andy Priaulx wears the relaxed air of a man who is content with his life. Which is hardly surprising considering he’s celebrating ten fruitful years as a factory BMW racing driver.
After winning all there was to win at the World Touring Car Championship, this year he’s embarking on a new challenge as part of the Munich manufacturer’s DTM assault.
Priaulx and I are shooting the breeze as we sit in a gunmetal grey BMW M5 in the world’s most expensive traffic jam on the driveway of Lord March’s Goodwood House.
Somewhere up ahead we hear the piercing shriek of a Lamborghini V12-engined Lotus F1 car as it storms off the start line of Goodwood’s hillclimb. A Jaguar XJR9 Le Mans racer prowls past to join the back of our queue, followed by a pristine Lotus Cortina. An unidentified single-seater dribbles unctuous fluid onto Lord March’s asphalt like a semi-conscious drunk on the last Tube train home.
It is the press day for the Goodwood Festival of Speed and Revival events, and Priaulx’s about to agitate the bacon sandwich I had for breakfast by hooning up the hill in our M5. While we wait, I have time to quiz him on the season ahead, in which BMW will enter a high-stakes battle with arch-rivals Audi and Mercedes-Benz.
“We are racing BMW’s main opposition in Germany in their back garden, so there’s a lot to gain and a lot to lose, and I’ve always liked that approach because that brings out the best in people,” he says.
Although the DTM represents a step into the unknown for Priaulx, he’ll have the comfort of some familiar faces around him. His M3 DTM car will be prepared by Team RBM, the Belgian squad run by Bart Mampaey that he’s raced with for nigh-on a decade, and he’ll also work with the same race engineer, Sam Waes.
That’ll come in useful because the DTM is an aero-dependent racing machine, more akin to a Formula 1 car than his old 3-series touring car.
“I’m very happy to be with some of the same guys I’ve been with for a long time. We’ve all got to learn the DTM format and how aero-dependent cars work, but we’ve also got some guys with prior DTM experience in the team so I don’t expect any problems,” says the 38-year-old.
“I feel like the rookie – and I love it. It’s all about vulnerability, but I find it really positive and I’m enjoying the challenge. This is what I signed up for years ago when I joined BMW.”
Our interview is cut short as we get the signal to don our crash helmets and trundle forward to the Goodwood startline.
I can’t stop laughing during our all-too-quick thrash; firstly because as Priaulx gives it full beans off the startline I feel a hefty thud in my midriff as 502lb ft of torque is unleashed through the rear tyres.
He has to quickly correct as the back end steps out between the two right-hand bends that lead onto the straight. On the straight we touch a speed that might have been 120mph, but I don’t have time to focus on the speedo before the needle falls as Priaulx scrubs off speed for Molecomb corner.
The drivers have been briefed to back off for the top part of the hill, although Priaulx’s interpretation of ‘back off’ doesn’t tally with my expectations and we’re still traveling at an eye-opening lick as we cross the finish line.
Soon we’re in Goodwood’s top paddock and before I can say ‘can we have another go?’ Priaulx has hopped out of the Beemer and is examining old Formula One cars like an excited child.
He’ll be taking that same excitement into the opening round of the DTM at Hockenheim this weekend.