Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK drivers Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx are already counting the days until the FIA WEC season-opener at Spa next May. The pair, as confirmed today by Ford Performance, are set to return to the WEC for a third season together in the No. 67 Ford GT, and are hoping to gun for the championship once again.
This season, Priaulx and Tincknell proved to be a standout package in the FIA WEC’s hotly-contested GTE Pro class. The British duo won two races – at Silverstone and Shanghai – and finished second at Le Mans, leading the title race for most of the season, before narrowly missing out to AF Corse’s James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi, who sealed it in Bahrain.
“I’m really happy with the program; returning for a 15th year as a works driver is great,” said Priaulx, who won three FIA World Touring Car crowns with BMW before moving to Ford at the start of 2016.
“I feel it was a no-brainer to come back, and at the moment I’m driving as well as I’ve ever driven. Obviously, I’m disappointed we didn’t win the championships, but next year the selection of circuits should hopefully be better for us. I want to win a fourth world title. I came close this year, and am so motivated to get one more.”
Both Tincknell and Priaulx are confident about their chances in 2018/19, even with competition set to grow stronger, with the addition of BMW and Aston bringing a new Vantage to the series.
“Both of Ford’s WEC partnerships have been working very well and, speaking for myself Andy and I have been getting on like a house on fire in and out of the car,” Tincknell told RACER. “I’m very happy. Stability is a great thing to have, particularly when you have such good people around you at Ford.”
Priaulx echoed Tincknell’s enthusiasm, saying it was an obvious decision for Ford Performance to bring the pair back for a third WEC campaign.
“Obviously it’s a no-brainer to put me and Harry together again, as we’ve settled in and done so well together,” he said. “The experience and youth works really well, and I’m happy we can perform at such a high level. It’d be crazy to split the pairing we have up. And obviously Stefan [Mucke] and Olivier [Pla] [in the sister car] also work well, so it was easy for us to all come back.
“There’s only going to be more competition next year, and I know there’s only eight other cars, but they’re all Pro cars, and you can’t put a cigarette paper between us most of the time. It’s been exceptional to watch, and so tough in the cockpit.
“I just hope Ford gets more support from the WEC. We’ve shown our cards, and didn’t have the tools to win at a crucial time. We were pegged back and Ferrari pulled away at the end of the season.”
The 2018/19 season will pitch Priaulx against his old brand, which is joining the WEC with the M8 GTE. While the Gurnseyman says beating BMW isn’t his main target, he told RACER, that it will be a strange experience to be competing against it on a regular basis.
“It’s going to be weird, actually,” he said. “But I left them on good terms. They’re going to be very competitive, I know the kind of people we will have to beat. It won’t be easy, it’s a great brand to have in the championship. The GTE Pro category is going from strength to strength, and I know there’s more manufacturers looking at it in the future.
“I look forward to racing them and hopefully beating them too. It’ll be nice to see all the faces I recognize in the paddock. But, for me, when I joined Ford, I made a sporting decision to leave BMW and try and win another title, and it was the right one.”
Due to there being fewer races in the 2018 calendar year for the WEC, as it makes its transition into a winterized schedule, both drivers have been looking to fill the gaps.
Tincknell has signed with Mazda Team Joest to compete in IMSA full-time next year in the Prototype ranks, a deal that he wasn’t sure would be possible until the WEC calendar was revealed.
“Christmas has come early hasn’t it?” Tincknell said. “I could not be more delighted [to have signed with both Ford and Mazda]. “I’ve been hanging around in the IMSA paddocks a couple of times in the past year or two and it’s no secret that I’ve been interested in finding an IMSA deal.
“Of course, the Multimatic link [between Ford and Mazda’s progams] has been a huge help, but even so I have to say that getting a full season deal is incredible. By the time I was getting close to this it looked like Rene [Rast] was pretty much locked in for the endurance races, so I wasn’t sure what might be possible. But then the WEC calendar for the ‘Super Season’ came out and was a real help in freeing up space and making this even a possibility. I can’t wait to get stuck in.”
Priaulx meanwhile, revealed to RACER that he is currently in talks to compete in a few other races outside of the WEC.
“I’m happy with the new [WEC] calendar because there should be a few additional races for me, some with Ford, some maybe with someone else,” he said.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s an option for Daytona this year [with Ford, like in 2017]/ It’ll be the first time I’ve missed it in years, but at least I can have more turkey and not have to worry about the Roar test in January! I think there’s going to be interesting ‘stocking filler’ races to look at though.
“I’m not panicking, I’m a works driver and have a drive for the 2018/19 season sorted already. My focus is into the Ford WEC program, where we are trying to compete with the likes of Porsche, Ferrari, Aston and now BMW.”