For the second time since 2005, Gary Paffett was crowned DTM champion at the season finale in Hockenheim on Sunday. The Briton’s third place finish was enough to beat his closest rival René Rast (Audi), securing the title with only a four-point lead. Racing24-7.net met with the new champion to talk about his experience in his last-ever DTM race.
„It has been an incredible year, but especially the last weekend was amazing“ said Paffett, with his characteristic bright-shining smile. “The second half of the season was more challenging for us, because of the rule changes. In addition, Audi seemed to have an advantage in the races, so the last half of the year was all about staying far enough in front of Rast.“
Paffett arrived at Hockenheim with a lead of 26 points to Rast in his pocket, trailing teammate Paul Di Resta by only two points. „The aim for the weekend then was of course to win, but also to stay close to René – and we managed to do that. On Saturday ,I was out fighting for the win but I lost a couple of places due to the Safety Car. So for Sunday, we really had to pull it out of the bag.“
Qualifying on Sunday also provide the best of starts: „I made a mistake in my first run as well as in the first lap of my second run which is usually the quickest. I went wide in turn 1 and my lap got cancelled. That really put the pressure on. Especially the guys in the garage were a bit more stressed than I was. But in the end I put a good lap together and managed to get third on the grid“, the Brit explained.
Confidence a key factor to win the championship
„Once I qualified in third place, I was pretty confident that we got the job done. DTM is so much about qualifying near the front, because if you get caught in the midfield you get caught in battles and as a result, you can get some damage.“
Paffett knew what was asked of him and where he needed to be. „If he wins, I’d need to come in second and after the start he was obviously going to win, so I just had to stay in the top 4. Despite not having the best race car on Sunday, where I was struggling with tyre wear“, he admitted.
After the start of the race the trio in front were able to build a solid lead from the rest of the field. „It was a fairly quiet race. Even if two Audis were trying to catch me towards the end, we managed to stay at the front. It was a great weekend and ultimately the whole team really deserved it. We worked so hard over the years and especially hard this year, so I am very happy to have achieved my second championship.“
Even though there still is a small drawback: With Mercedes leaving DTM, focusing on their new commitment in the ABB Formula E Championship, the 37-year-old won’t be able to defend his title. „There is one thing which I still can’t believe: after all the championships I’ve won, I’ve never defended one! I’ve always left the championship the year I won.“
„I’ve never really got the chance to drive with the number 1 on my car which I am really disappointed about. On the other side I am really happy about the opportunity we have – the option to go into Formula E. But for sure I am going to miss the DTM. It’s been my life for the last 15 years – almost my whole professional career. I am going to miss the series. I loved the racing so it’s going to be different when next season starts and I am not part of it.“