Gary Paffett commenced his 2018 DTM season in dominating fashion as he took victory in the first race of the weekend before finishing Sunday’s race on the podium in one of the most exciting races in the history of the series.
Gary Paffett secured his 21st DTM victory and his fifth at Hockenheim in race one of the weekend
Saturday also saw him take his 13th DTM pole and his third at the Hockenheimring
Gary Paffett secured another podium finish in Sunday's second race - the 40th podium finish in his DTM career
Leaves Hockenheim 2nd in the Drivers’ Championship with 43 points
The first round of the 2018 DTM season took place this past weekend with the annual season-opener at the Hockenheimring. Action at the 4.574-kilometre circuit got underway on Friday with the first practice session of the weekend.
Completing 15 laps in the 30-minute session, Gary finished the session in 2nd place with a 1:34.133-minute lap time, just under two-tenths slower than fellow Mercedes-AMG driver Paul di Resta.
Saturday’s action started off with free practice in the morning as the teams prepared for the first race of the 2018 season. Gary finished the morning’s practice in 9th place as he posted his first sub 1:34-lap time as he recorded a 1:33.085.
In qualifying, Gary set his fastest lap time of 1:32.264 on his first flying lap and secured pole position for the first race of the DTM season - also collecting his first championship points as he was awarded three points for pole position!
Lining up from pole position for race one at Hockenheim, Gary got a fantastic start and shot off the line ahead of Marco Wittmann who started the race on the front row with Gary. Crossing the line at the end of lap one, Gary had already stretched out a second gap, out of DRS, and continued to build his lead as the race progressed.
As ten minutes passed, Gary’s lead closed up as teammate, Lucas Auer, began to threaten his lead and found an unchallenged way passed Gary into the hairpin. However, Gary remained hot on his tail as the pair went door to door.
Staying closely behind Auer, Gary played the strategic game and patiently saved his DRS as he followed Auer until pitting on lap 15 from second-place. Rejoining the race after his 8.1-second pit stop, Gary had 30-minutes left in the race to try to take back the lead of the race.
Auer then followed Gary by pitting a lap later from the lead of the race and rejoined the race just ahead of Gary. However, Gary, on tyres that were already up to temperature, was able to carry a lot more corner speed out of the first two corners and, on the run down the parabolica, drew alongside Auer.
Swooping past Auer, Gary moved himself into 10th place and, theoretically, into the lead of the race with drivers still left to do their mandatory pit stop.
As Auer and Glock battled for second place, Gary was able to extend his lead at the front and kept the position without contest up until the chequered flag. Crossing the line in first place, Gary collectedhis first win since 2013 and his 21st in his DTM career.
"The team did an excellent job today,” said an ecstatic Gary. “The car was really good. Lucas passed me initially and I didn't want to resist too much at that point. We then brought our pit stop forward, and the tyre change and out-lap were really strong, so I was able to pass him again. I managed to open up a gap subsequently and secure the win. It's been a while since my last victory. We were often close to winning during the interim period and it's a terrific reward for me and the team for all our hard work in recent years."
Sunday again started with free practice and Gary finished the session in 4th place as qualifying fast approached. A tougher qualifying session saw Gary secure 10th place for the second race of the weekend at Hockenheim after posting a 1:32.881 lap time, just five-tenths off polesitter Timo Glock - showcasing the competitiveness of the series.
Starting Sunday’s race from the inside of the fifth row, Gary got a blistering start off the line and had to avoid the car of Edo Mortara who had appeared to have stalled from two rows ahead. Taking to the inside, Gary skimmed past the wall and Mortara’s car to blast through into sixth place before turn one!
As Gary caught the leading pack, he found himself behind the BMW of Joel Eriksson and was pressurising the BMW driver as he looked to break into the top five places. Getting a tremendous run out of the hairpin, Gary was all over the rear of Eriksson when the BMW driver took to the inside at Mercedes. Sticking to the racing line, Gary was earlier on the power and had lots more momentum to carry himself around the outside of Eriksson at turn ten.
Now in 5th place, next in Gary’s sights was Paul Di Resta and was flying out on track. With 42 minutes left to run on the clock, Gary was now right on Di Resta’s tail and, again, got great traction out of the hairpin. Heading into Mercedes, Gary this time dove to the inside and took 4th place from Di Resta - quickly shutting the door to stop any switchback from his fellow Mercedes-AMG driver.
With Rene Rast occupying 3rd place, Gary was on the fringes of the podium as he quickly caught the Audi driver. An easier pass this time saw Gary power past the Rast on the rundown the parabolica, completing the move before the heavy-braking hairpin.
With second-place occupant and fellow Mercedes driver Lucas Auer carrying a penalty for his jump start, he didn’t put too much of a fight when Gary arrived behind and it was a quick overtake that moved Gary into second-place and he dived instantly into the pits for his mandatory stop.
A 7.5-second pitstop saw Gary rejoin the race behind race leader Timo Glock and was then passed by the earlier stopper of Paul Di Resta who was on warmer tyres. Taking a lap to get the heart into his tyres, Gary was now ready to start hunting down the two lead cars as he searched to make it two wins from two.
With Gary’s tyres five-laps fresher, he was able to get the power down earlier out of turn two and drew alongside Di Resta and, diving onto the brakes at the final moment, Gary got down the inside and into second place - with Glock just a few car lengths up the road. Setting the scene for a dramatic finale.
With twenty minutes remaining on the clock, Gary arrived in the mirrors of race leader Timo Glock and the pair were both determined to be on the top step of the podium.
On lap 23, Gary got a run of Glock down the parabolica and with his DRS open took to the outside of the hairpin as Glock defended the inside. Running deep into the corner, Gary then switched back on Glock and had much more momentum on the run down to Mercedes and swooped past the BMW driver into the lead of the race.
But the race was not over. Glock instantly came fighting back and on the next lap Gary was defending tremendously hard to keep Glock at bay in some hard but fair racing. With Gary not having DRS at his disposal, he was having to work incredibly hard to keep Glock behind and on the next lap on the run down the parabolica, Glock dived down the inside of Gary at the hairpin.
Gary, however, on the outside, showed amazing car control to carry huge amounts of speed around the outside and rode the apex on the exit to keep Glock behind, for one more lap at least.
Again on the run down to the hairpin, Glock, with his DRS open, this time took to the outside in a bid to pass Gary. Both late on the brakes, the pair made slight contact through the corner and they ran side by side heading into Mercedes, with Glock defending the inside to the corner.
As the pair hit the braking zone, Gary tried to switch back on Glock but Glock defended well and Gary yielded the lead of the race, for half a lap. This time with DRS in his pocket, Gary got the run on Glock down the parabolica and was later on the brakes on the outside of Glock. Early on the power, Gary switched back at the hairpin and got a tremendous run on Glock to power past him before the braking zone at Mercedes.
Gary managed to keep the lead for a whole lap until Glock came back fighting once again. This time, Glock was late on the brakes into the hairpin saw him get past Gary, who tried to fight back into Mercedes but was not close enough to attempt a move.
Gary was then all over Glock’s mirrors for the next lap as the pair went door to door for three-quarters of the lap but Glock defended perfectly to keep Gary behind who was doing all he could to try to find a way past the BMW driver.
Gary then briefly got ahead of Glock for a hundred metres before Glock was later on the brakes and was able to keep Gary behind as Gary ran out of DRS with five minutes to go.
With the pair fighting so hard, the trailing pack had caught up with them and Gary was now in second-place and having to look in his mirrors. Brilliantly fighting off Eriksson, Gary was on the last lap of the race when he seemingly had no life left in his tyres to keep Mike Rockenfeller from passing him and, as he reached the chequered flag, had to settle for 3rd place in what was one of the most thrilling races in recent history.
As Gary pulled up at the podium, he and Timo Glock shared a moment as they both congratulated each other on a captivating performance and a perfect example of hard but fair racing.
The result meant Gary booked him third-place behind Glock and Rockenfeller, thus taking his second podium finish of the weekend, the 40th in his DTM career and twelfth at the Hockenheimring.
"I love Timo (Glock), that was incredible. We could have both backed off at any time and taken second place. Because we knew that the others were eventually going to catch up with us. But neither of us wanted to give up. At the end of the day, third place is disappointing, but it was worth it. It was the best race I've ever driven in. A fight for the win like that is absolutely incredible. I used up my DRS relatively early on. That's why I just wanted to get past Timo and pull out a one-second gap. But every time I looked in the mirror, it wasn't quite enough and there he was again."
Gary now departs Hockenheim second in the Drivers’ Championship on 43 points, one point behind leader Timo Glock. His Mercedes-AMG Motorsport PETRONAS team leads the Teams’ Championship while Mercedes lead the Manufacturers’. Next race of the season is at Lausitzring in two weeks time on the 18th - 20th May.