“No reason for sitting back”
At DTM season half-time, Gary Paffett holds the championship lead. The Briton currently experiences a kind of a renaissance. After four seasons without a race win, the 2005 champion scored 148 points in the 10 races contested to date and is the dominating championship leader. He won at Hockenheim, the Lausitzring and Zandvoort. With a total of 23 wins under his belt he now is tied for third place in the all-time best record book with Mattias Ekström. Only Bernd Schneider (43) and Klaus Ludwig (37) amassed more wins. At DTM.com Gary Paffett reveals the key for his successes and looks ahead to the second half of the season.
Gary, with your win in the Saturday race at Zandvoort you tied in with Mattias Ekström in the all-time best record book – just on the day of his 40th birthday!
(laughs) “I have to admit that doing so wasn’t a nice birthday present for him. The positive aspect: he won’t be able to strike back. This means that he certainly soon will drop back to fourth position. We jointly covered a long stretch of way in DTM. We always were good rivals. I’m convinced that he is happy for me. He already said during the season kick-off at Hockenheim that I would challenge his position. To now be third in the all-time best record book is just incredible. That’s something I’m really proud of.”
Last weekend at Zandvoort you scored 49 of the maximum of 56 points available. An impressive achievement…
“It was a perfect weekend. As I didn’t want to risk my championship position I didn’t push too hard on Sunday and deferred to René Rast. I can’t complain that I didn’t win both races. I’m really happy. Two poles, a win and a second place – you couldn’t hope for more.”
You had an enormous pace and seem to be virtually invincible…
“Not really. After all, I was far from winning every race. None the less, the first half of the season was incredible. Of course there were things that didn’t always run perfectly but we hold the championship lead and I’m absolutely happy with our performance to date. We worked hard for every single point and nobody gave us a present. Now we have to keep on pushing. Even after a perfect weekend such as the one we had at Zandvoort you mustn’t sit back. You always have to strive for the maximum. And to try to improve even the smallest detail on your car. There are no mysteries and now magic. What we achieved so far is the result of hard work and good technology.”
Does your approach differ from the ones of your rivals?
“That’s difficult to say. It’s a well-known fact that the differences between the car are small. I think that the aero changes introduced prior to the season suit my style of driving a lot. With your setup you only can make for small differences compared to the rest of the field. It’s my task to convey the engineers the best possible impression of what I want from the car. And my approach obviously works very well.”
What is the percentage your race engineer Robert Sattler added to your success?
“We collaborate really well. But my performance engineer Stuart Barlow also is a part of our team. Stuart has got a lot of experience with touring cars, in Formula One and the IndyCar Series while Robert is particularly well experienced in DTM. Sometimes our opinions differ but we always succeed in jointly carving out the best direction. At the end of the day we solve every argument we have for the best of the car. This ‘ménage á trois’ was started last year and has been improving all the time, since then. Weekend per weekend we need less words for deciding what is necessary. In the meantime it turned into an automatic process. And that’s important. The guys behind the scenes do a great job.”
Is the pressure growing now?
“No, there still is a long way to go. We just have arrived at season half-time. Another driver could be just as successful in the second half as I was in the first. While we stop scoring for whatever reasons. You can’t make any predictions in this sport. We can’t and mustn’t rest on our laurels. We have to keep on doing a good job. And then I perhaps will think about the title prior to the season finale at Hockenheim. But up to this point in time I only will think from race to race.”
How important was your good start into the season with the first and third places at Hockenheim?
“I always start into a season in a confident mood. The off-season tests ran well. But they also ran well in the previous years. But one thing can be taken for granted: a good start into the season is crucial. Two years ago I would have won at Hockenheim – but then I touched Robert Wickens’ car and received a drive-thru penalty what destroyed my race. A good start takes you on a good path. I It gives you self-confidence and you are far more relaxed. That’s the only difference.”