Gary Paffett moved himself into the lead of the DTM Drivers’ Standings after an impressive weekend at the Norisring saw the Mercedes-AMG driver collect his fourth podium of the season.
After his one of his most impressive start to a season, Gary Paffett headed to the single street circuit on the DTM calendar with the championship lead in his sights as he trailed Timo Glock by only eleven points as the paddock arrived in Nuremberg.
Wet weather started the weekend on Friday as the first running of the fourth round of the season gave little indication or help on strategy with dry weather returning for Saturday and Sunday. Despite the data gathered being redundant for the weekend’s races, Gary still used the session to get up to speed with the 2.3-kilometre circuit and finished the first practice in 12th place.
With Saturday morning providing the first dry running of the weekend, lap times tumbled down compared to Friday and Gary finished the morning’s practice session in 11th place as he and his Mercedes team worked to finds the perfect balance in the car for qualifying.
Gary continued his strong qualifying form into the day’s session as he finished qualifying at the Norisring with a best time of 47.872-seconds, securing him a 4th place starting position on the grid.
The start of race one saw Gary get off the line well and on the long run down to the tight turn one, Gary moved to the inside but was forced to brake early to avoid running into the back of Phillip Eng, allowing Paul Di Resta to get around the side of him - demoting Gary to 5th.
As drivers pitted early in the race, Gary found himself in second place, behind Di Resta, and pushed to get the overtake done before his mandatory stop. On lap 11, a well-executed moved from Gary saw him fly down the inside of Di Resta at turn one and promoted him into the lead of the race!
Coming into the pits at the end of lap 11, Gary rejoined the race still in the lead of the race but on much colder tyres compared to the cars behind him. Losing out to Mercedes stablemate, Edo Mortara, and then Marco Wittmann, Gary found himself in 3rd place but with his tyres now up to temperature he was ready to bring the fight back.
With twenty minutes on the clock remaining, Gary’s five-lap fresher tyres came into play and his tight battle with Marco Wittmann concluded with Gary making a late perfectly-timed lunge down the inside at turn one to take second place!
Taking the chequered flag in second place, Gary secured his fourth podium finish of the season from seven races and moved six points clear at the top of the championship standings!
"Amazing! That was a mega race, and my car was very fast. It was important that I stayed out ahead of Philipp Eng after the stop. After that, it all went very well. I just had to wait for the right moment to get past Marco Wittmann. It was great fun in the final stage. It was a super battle with Edo, and I never gave up. It may have raised pulse rates among the team, but it was a really good race. P2 and taking over at the top of the championship are fantastic for me."
Gary picked up from where he left off on Sunday morning as he got straight down to business, finishing the morning’s practice session up in 5th place. Full on confidence, Gary then secured his fifth top-five qualifying result of the season as he finished qualifying in second-place to start race two of the weekend from the front row - picking up two championship points in doing so.
Getting off the line strongly, poleman Daniel Juncadella came across to cover Gary but both of them could do little to stop the fast-starting Lucas Auer who sailed past Gary and snatched second place.
Coming into the pits from third place on lap 10, Gary rejoined in front of a pack of cars, who had all stopped earlier for tyres and were up to racing temperature whilst Gary fought to get the heat into his. Losing out on a handful of places, Gary eventually fell behind Timo Glock into sixth place of the stoppers.
Championship rivals, Gary and Timo Glock, were then locked in a fierce battle for position with the latter pushing the driving limits of the regulations. Attempting several overtakes, Gary was unsuccessful as Glock gave him no little and no racing room.
With Gary not able to find a way past, and his tyres now completely killed, Gary eventually crossed the finishing line in 13th place but maintained his championship lead as the series departed the Norisring.
"That race wasn't up to much, unfortunately. The start was OK still, but then I came up against some cars that had already stopped. My pit stop wasn't perfect, and I came back out behind Timo. I tried to overtake him several times, but he kept forcing me into the wall, which practically ended my race. To some extent, I don't think that was actually very fair of Timo, and I never expected it after the great race we had at Hockenheim."
After reviewing the race, Timo Glock later apologised to Gary and accepted he had overstepped the mark with his driving manner in race two.
Zandvoort's legendary dune circuit will this year be the venue for the race meeting that marks the halfway stage in the 2018 DTM season. Drivers will contest Race 9 and 10 there, July 13th - 15th.