Andy Priaulx expects to have a challenging race at the Nürburgring this weekend as the FIA World Endurance Championship season resumes, despite leading the points heading into the German round.
A second-place class finish at the 24 Hours of Le Mans kept Priaulx and Ford Chip Ganassi Racing co-driver Harry Tincknell out front in the GT Drivers World Championship, although Balance of Performance changes has put strong runs in the next two races in jeopardy, according to the three time WTCC champion.
The Silverstone class-winning Ford GT has been handed a 20kg weight increase, in the first round of Auto BoP changes, with a 20kg weight break and 0.1 mm larger air restrictor given to the Aston Martin Vantage GTE, which claimed class honors at Le Mans under an event-specific BoP.
“We’re in a strong position in the championship but the next two races are going to be really tough for us,” Priaulx told Sportscar365.
“I think Aston will be very strong. They won the championship last year, they won Le Mans, and they’re going to be right up there in the next two races.
“We’ve just got to keep one eye on those guys and at the same time we’ve got to drive the best we can with what we’ve got.
“At the moment, we’re not competitive enough to go out there and win but we’ve got to make the best out of what we have. It’s as simple as that.”
Facing a challenging BoP and tough competition, Priaulx remains realistic about his chances this weekend, admitting that a second GTE-Pro class win of the season is likely too far out of reach.
Nevertheless, he has his sights set on a podium finish at the German circuit.
“It’s going to be a scrap between us, Porsche and Ferrari, and I think Aston will be stronger,” he said.
“If we can get a podium, we’d be absolutely ecstatic. I don’t think we’ll be fighting for the wins from the front, but you never know.
“It’s a six-hour race and a lot can happen. Last year, we really had to work hard, and we’re in a much different situation now with our weight and power and everything else. It’s going to be a big scrap for us.”
While Priaulx has been very praising of Pipo Derani, who served as third driver for the opening three rounds of the championship, he is confident that returning to a two-driver lineup will help for the rest of the season.
The majority of GTE-Pro teams have reverted to two-driver lineups post-Le Mans, in order to give each driver more track time in Free Practice sessions.
“Pipo just slotted in beautifully and he did a great job at Le Mans being really consistent and very safe,” Priaulx said. “He was just perfect for what we needed from him.
“Last year, we had three drivers right through to Austin and then after Austin we went back to two and won a race straight away.
“It just limits your track time and you lose vital time during Free Practice and in qualifying you end up going in with a few less laps.
“Me and Harry and super tight. He’s a lovely kid and he’s really quick.
“It’s definitely going to be more focused now and it will give us a better opportunity to maximize our performance.”