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Paffett completes perfect weekend to extend DTM title lead

Sunday, May 20 2012

Gary Paffett has completed the perfect weekend at his home race, with a lights to flag victory at Brands Hatch today (Sunday). The Bromley-born driver resisted race-long attention from BMW's Bruno Spengler, with Audi's Mike Rockenfeller completing the podium.

Paffett made a fine getaway, if a little sideways, as Bruno Spengler challenged on the outside as a result of Christian Vietoris' tardy start. Martin Tomczyk and Mattias Ekström provided much of the first lap entertainment, running side by side, whilst Andy Priaulx shuffled himself to the tail of the field after a brush with David Coulthard. Despite an early pitstop, he was to be the race's first retirement.

Tomczyk's early progress provided plenty of interest, as he barged his way past Adrien Tambay at Clearways and set the early benchmark times, in pursuit of Felipe Albuquerque. Meanwhile at the front, Paffett was driving hard to escape the clutches of Spengler and Mike Rockenfeller.

Tomczyk was the first to pit as the window opened, the champion keen to run in clearer air with a fresh set of rubber. However Audi were wise to this and brought Albuquerque in next time around, which successfully kept him in front of the BMW. Tomczyk responded by putting the Portuguese driver under intense pressure.

Meanwhile the top three were running within four seconds of each other and neither of them felt inclined to stop for tyres at this point. Tambay pitted from fourth and found himself out of the top ten and under attack from Augusto Farfus, with Jamie Green inheriting his place.

Rockenfeller was the first to blink and Spengler pitted next time round, which maintained position and with the ensuing battle slowing them a little, Paffett was able to change tyres with little threat to his lead. This left Green to stop and he flew around the circuit before stopping on lap 47, rejoining behind Miguel Molina in eighth. Tomczyk then made his second stop a few laps later, with just half the race gone and whilst Albuquerque responded, a slow stop finally freed the champion's M3.

At the front, Paffet's attempts to pull away from Spengler saw him make light contact with Tambay into Paddock Hill whilst lapping the Frenchman and the gap between the leading pair continued to see-saw with the traffic. Matters were worse for Tambay, however, who finally lost out to Farfus shortly afterwards.

Spengler and Rockenfeller pitted again on lap 60, with little difference between the crews. Paffett made his final stop two laps later and returned to the track, his lead intact, despite an issue bolting on the right-hand front tyre. Spengler continued to push, whilst Rockenfeller fell into the clutches of Tomczyk.

Paffett's lead, never any more than three seconds during the race, came under threat as Spengler turned up the wick. The Canadian's only hope now was to overtake on the track and with traffic always an issue on the 1.2 mile track, an opportunity could easily present itself. However the Englishman was equal to the task and if anything, it seemed as though BMW's challenge to the lead fizzled out with his tyres as he fell back towards Rockenfeller with just a handful of laps to go.

However there were no late issues for Paffett and he completed the perfect home victory, extending his lead in the series. Spengler held off Rockenfeller, whilst Tomczyk finished fourth, ahead of Ekstrom, Vietoris, and Miguel Molina. Green ended up in eighth place, with Edoardo Mortara and Albuquerque completing the top ten. David Coulthard finished 15th, whilst Susie Wolff joined Priaulx as one of just three retirements.

"To a certain extent it was fine but I couldn't relax," Paffett explained. "I hard to push hard to escape Bruno.  I made an OK start but managed to pull out a few seconds for the pitstops. Bruno was keeping the pressure up - we were in control and we had the speed to pull away but it wasn't relaxing. You've got to stay in a rhythm, with the other cars you lose tenths and rhythm, and it's hard to keep up concentration. It's difficult to think about the championship but we've had a great start to the season so we'll see how it goes.

"It's very special, my first win here. I learnt to race cars at this circuit and to win here is an incredible feeling!"

DTM Race Result
1. Gary Paffett, GBR, HWA Mercedes, 98 Laps
2. Bruno Spengler, CAN, Schnitzer BMW, +5.0s
3. Mike Rockenfeller, GER, Phoenix Audi, +5.5s
4. Martin Tomczyk, GER, RMG BMW, +5.9s
5. Mattias Ekström, SWE, Abt Audi, +22.4s
6. Christian Vietoris, GER, HWA Mercedes, +23.1s
7. Miguel Molina, ESP, Phoenix Audi, +23.6s
8. Jamie Green, GBR, HWA Mercedes, +24.2s
9. Edoardo Mortara, ITA, Rosberg Audi, +25.7s
10. Filipe Albuquerque, POR, Rosberg Audi, +29.5s

Next weekend (26/27 May), Brands Hatch hosts the Masters Historic Festival, featuring Formula 1 races and demonstrations. Tickets are available in advance from £17, with free entry for children aged 12 and under. For more information call 0843 453 9000 or click here.