Andy Priaulx says Chip Ganassi Racing have immediately made him feel at home since moving across from BMW.
The 42-year-old will race a full-season campaign with Ford in the World Endurance Championship after thirteen years at BMW, during which he won the European Touring Car Championship and three consecutive World Touring Car Championships.
Although he will have to wait to sample the all-new Ford GT in race conditions, Priaulx will at least get a chance to become further acquainted with the Ganassi team at this weekend’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, where he will share the Ford Ecoboost-powered Riley Mk XXVI DP with Brendon Hartley, Alex Wurz and Lance Stroll.
“It was obviously a big decision going to Ford, but it was definitely the right one,” Priaulx told Racing.GT at the Autosport Show. “In terms of experience and expertise, you can’t get much higher than Chip Ganassi – they have an unbelievable setup, so I haven’t woken up at any point and thought ‘that was the wrong thing to do.’
“The team have welcomed me like I’ve been there for 13 years, I immediately felt very at home with them. I’ve worked for Rahal previously so I’m familiar with how American teams work and I’ve driven with [new Ford signings] Dirk Muller and Joey Hand before, so honestly I’ve had no real issues in the transition at all.”
After several years racing GT class BMWs – enjoying success at the Sebring 12 Hours in 2011 – Priaulx admits that going for overall honours at Daytona will require some readjusting, but is confident that he will be up to the challenge.
“It’s actually nicer because you can just focus one way and that’s forward,” says Priaulx of the DP. “In a GT car it’s how you manage the traffic and how you manage being overtaken in the traffic, whereas in a prototype it’s all about timing and moving forwards.
“This is the beginning of my Ford programme, so I want to start it in the best possible way. I wouldn’t say there’s more pressure on you, because driving for BMW for 13 years as a factory driver the pressure’s on every day, but for me it’s a dream that I can really go for the outright win. I lost Daytona by one second two years ago when we were runners-up, so there’s definitely some unfinished business there.
“I think I’m driving really well at the moment – in terms of experience, my level of driving is as good as it’s ever been, fitness wise I’m feeling great and I’ve got all the experience and confidence to fall back on as well. I’m in a good place and I’ve just signed one of the best programmes of my life, so from that perspective it doesn’t get much better.”
With Wurz set to retire for good after the race, Priaulx is determined to give him a good send-off.
“What can you say about Wurzy? He’s got lots of experience, is still hugely quick and you can always learn things from someone like him,” Priaulx added..”He’s super motivated and even though he’s not going to drive again after this weekend, his work ethic is really impressive, it’s the only way he knows. You’re only as good as your last race so he’s going to want to make it a good one and I hope we can do it for him because he deserves it.
“Brendan is a current World Champion, he’s the benchmark for us because he’s driven the DP before and raced at Daytona last year. He’s a really nice kid and clearly hugely talented. Lance is the new kid on the block, he’s got a great future ahead of him in the sport. He’s basically at the beginning and we’re getting towards the end, so there’s no competition there, which is nice. He can just learn from us, and go do his stuff – to win at Daytona is a huge opportunity for him.”