Gary Paffett finished ninth overall at the Suzuka 10 Hours, after qualifying for his Mercedes Team Strakka Racing outfit inside the top-15 in the pole position shoot out in the penultimate round of the 2019 Intercontinental GT Challenge.
With mixed weather conditions expected over the weekend, Gary and his car #44 team-mates Lewis Williamson and Tristan Vautier headed to Suzuka, Japan for a 10-hour endurance race.
Progress was made throughout the practice sessions, as the team comfortably ran inside the top-20 during the session and the team was full of confidence by the time qualifying took place on Saturday.
Finishing inside the top-20 in qualifying, Gary and the team were rewarded with a place in the Super Pole shoot out, where, it was decided that Gary would drive in the session. Here, the Fitbit-sponsored driver set a time of 2:01.479, to put the #44 car 14th on the grid. In what was Paffett’s first-ever qualifying at the Japanese circuit.
After seeing the Mercedes-AMG GT3 car through the top-20 qualifying, Gary handled the rolling start of the race. Despite getting a clean opening lap where he gained two places, Gary was hit by a fellow competitor just 10 minutes into the race. This demoted the team to 24th and cost the car a significant amount of time too.
The team set to work with making up lost time, and by the three and a half hour mark, they had made up an impressive 13 places to be running up in ninth position.
From here, the race remained reasonably calm until a safety car period which slowed the field down. When racing resumed, there was three and a half hours to go. As the clock counted down, Tristan and Lewis handled the final stages and Williamson crossed the line in ninth position, despite earlier contact in the race.
“The car felt really good all weekend,” Gary said after the race. “It was quick and felt great during the long runs and on tyres. It is such a shame that we got hit in the opening stint of the race as this really hurt our chances of getting a top-five finish.
“We kept heading in the right direction all weekend. We started off a bit off the pace, but we rectified that by the time it came to qualifying. It is frustrating that our chances were hindered by something that was beyond our control, but that is racing. The team and I are looking for a strong result in the final round of the season.”
The final round of the IGTC season will take place at Kyalami, South Africa, on November 23rd.