Following a decade-long stint with BMW, Andy Priaulx gears up for a new chapter in his career this year, as the three-time WTCC champion and former Nurburgring 24 winner makes the switch to Ford for its FIA World Endurance Championship program.
Priaulx was announced as one of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s full-season drivers last month, joining Olivier Pla, Stefan Muecke and Marino Franchitti in the pair of Multmatic-run Ford GTs in the globe-trotting sports car championship.
“I’m super happy about it, to be honest,” Priaulx told Sportscar365. “Obviously leaving BMW after 13 years is always going to be a heart wrench, but I left on very good terms with everybody there.
‘This project was something I’ve been eyeing up for over a year. I haven’t had one moment where I’ve woken up and said, ‘What have I done?’ I feel really happy about the move.”
After a triple program last year of racing full-time in the British Touring Car Championship, European Le Mans Series with Marc VDS Racing as well as the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races with Turner Motorsport, Priaulx is set for a singular focus in 2016.
While he kicked off the year in a Chip Ganassi Racing Ford EcoBoost-powered Riley DP at Daytona, the focus is now 100 percent on the new Ford GT program.
Priaulx, who has made two previous starts at Le Mans, including a third place class finish in 2011 in a BMW M3 GT2 with fellow Ford drivers Dirk Mueller and Joey Hand, is already looking forward to returning to La Sarthe, but this time with the legend of the Blue Oval.
“I think when you drive Le Mans, you always make history,” he said. “But to drive Le Mans in a Ford, 50 years celebratory [of Ford’s first win at Le Mans], that is something very special.
“For sure you become part of history at that moment. That’s why I wanted to do these big races.
“I’ve had this before where I’ve driven the [BMW] Art Car and have driven in some big races like Bathurst  and stuff like that.
“You kind of feel like you’re making history each time you do it and that’s what makes all the hairs stand up in the back of your neck and makes you really want to be in a race car.”
The 2016 season will also mark his first experience in the WEC, something the 41-year-old Guernseyman admitted to having an eye on for quite some time.
“The championship is growing,” Priaulx said. “Now, in popularity terms, it’s getting up there with Formula One in a lot of ways.
“I definitely had it on my radar and my race engineer last year [in BTCC] was also a race engineer in WEC and he was saying that I should really look at it.
“At the end of the day, whether it’s in [IMSA] or WEC, to drive for Ford and to drive for Chip Ganassi is something [incredible].
“At least when it’s all done and dusted, I can wake up and say I’ve driven for some of the biggest teams in the world.”
The challenge comes in getting up to speed in the GTE-Pro ranks, an established class with the likes of Ferrari, Aston Martin and Porsche.
“I think it’s going to be tough,” Priaulx said. “We’re racing against very, very experienced manufacturers.
“We’re not underestimating that but I think when you look at the build quality of this car and the way Ford has approached the program, they’ve done it properly. It is absolutely a beautiful bit of kit.
“From that perspective, we’re going to be and our aim has to be to win races, and hopefully the big one 50 years on. But Le Mans is a bloody long race.
“It’s avery tough race. There’s a lot of things that can be thrown at you, from varying conditions to traffic and a huge concentration required there with the long straights and the chicanes and the dark.
“There’s a lot to come from us there.”