Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lady Luck smiles

Two laps from the end of the penultimate round of the World Touring Car Championship in Macau, Andy Priaulx looked all but out of it. The British BMW driver, who won the championship the previous three years, had qualified badly and started the race in 12th. He had progressed only as far as 11th with 7 of the 9 laps complete and faced a serious problem....

Points standings going into round 21:

Priaulx: 81
Yvan Muller (SEAT): 81
Augusto Farfus (BMW): 71
James Thompson: 69

So with Muller leading race 1, and Farfus sitting in third, Priaulx was looking at being 10 points (a win) behind Muller, and 4 points ahead of Farfus. Making things worse, he was out of contention for 8th in the race, which would have put him on pole for race 2 due to the reverse grid rules.

"Stick a fork in him, he's DONE!", I thought.

Halfway through lap 8, fortune smiled on Priaulx in a very big way, as Muller coasted to a halt with a broken drivetrain. All was not saved though, because this elevated Farfus to 2nd and put him on 79 points, starting race 2 from 7th, whilst Priaulx still sat on 81, starting from 10th. Thompson was also now in the frame, potentially moving up to 73 points and starting 5th in race 2.

As the leaders headed into Macau's tortuous first major corner, Lisboa, on the final lap, Lady Luck didn't just smile on Priaulx - she stopped by his house in the middle of the night holding champagne and strawberries, wearing lacy lingerie, looking for a booty-call...

SEAT's Gabriele Tarquini attempted a very optimistic move on Augusto Farfus. When it didn't stick, he punted him in the back and turned him into the armco. Farfus' car sat motionless, battered, and his championship run looked over.

If nothing else happened, Priaulx was set to finish 9th, score no points and start 9th for race 2. He would stay on 81 points, Muller would do the same and Farfus would also not gain any points and stick on 71. Only James Thompson would make any ground, moving up to 75 points, and starting 6th on the grid. He would then need to come 2nd in race 2 to take the championship or win if Priaulx came 7th or 8th.

Lady Luck was not done though. As Priaulx answered the door and invited her inside, he discovered she'd brought her hot younger sister, Lady Disbelief.

The driver sitting in 8th was independent BMW entry Duncan Huisman. BMW bosses got on the radio and suggested Huisman let Priaulx past for 8th, thus getting him a valuable point, and more importantly pole position in race 2. Huisman did as he was told, and the championship became a formality at that point. Race 2 progressed as expected with Priaulx taking the win, and Thompson doing his best but unable to make up any ground in the standings.

I've always been impressed with Priaulx's WTCC and ETCC victories. He's fast, smart and has that winning spirit. This one though felt like a fluke. It should have been Muller's championship, and if not his, then Farfus'. Priaulx had struggled all weekend, and you can't have bad weekends n the WTCC.

Or maybe you can, if Lady Luck and her sister are feeling frisky...


Jimmy said...

Well, you get points for the rest of the championship too, so there's a lot of hard work in with that luck.
I'm always glad to see Priaulx do well. I got soaked to the skin watching him win a British Touring Car race at Knockhill in torrential rain once. Apparently he was some kind of powerboat champion in his early days, which might explain it!

Clive said...

Luck is an essential ingredient in a championship-winning driver. Without it, you can be condemned to forever being a nearly-man; with it, you're in with a shout.

Jimmy's right - without the rest of the season behind him, Priaulx would not have been one of those in contention in the last race. It's the whole season that matters, not just one race.