DTM CHAMPIONSHIP GOES DOWN TO THE WIRE AS PAFFETT PICKS UP A FURTHER FIVE POINTS
British DTM driver Gary Paffett took a solid fourth place in today's race at Hockenheim which saw him pick up a further five Championship points and means that the title is now unlikely to be decided until the season finale in Shanghai.
With three races to go, and 16 points separating the top three drivers in the Championship, it was all to play for as Paffett took to the rain-drenched track on Saturday afternoon for the qualifying session.
Adapting well to the tricky track conditions, Gary comfortably got through to the third part of qualifying and posted a lap time of 1:37.982. This saw him secure third place on the grid - the highest placed Mercedes driver; ahead of his Championship rivals di Resta (P5) and Spengler (P10).
On Sunday afternoon and on a dry track, Paffett lined up his Salzgitter Mercedes-Benz on the second row of the grid of the newly configured Hockenheim race circuit.
When the lights went out, Gary maintained his third position into the first corner and began to attack Rockenfeller for second place. Almost immediately, a collision on lap one at the rear of the field brought out the safety car and put the racing on hold.
After five laps, the safety car came in and the racing resumed. At the restart, Paffett stayed right on the back of second placed Rockenfeller and began to attack him for position. The car was handling well and Paffett was able to attack hard.
Paffett spent the next six laps continuing to look for a way past Rockenfeller, while also defending his third position from di Resta.
On lap 12 Paffett made his first pitstop and rejoined the track in P7. Despite a combination of a strong pit stop and some quick laps by Paffett, Rockenfeller was able to pit and rejoin the track just ahead of him.
On lap 23 the 2010 DTM Championship was thrown wide open when the current Championship leader Spengler was forced to retire with a suspected problem with the rear left wheel suspension. This left only two title contenders in the race -- Paffett and di Resta.
For the past ten laps Paffett had been suffering from a loss of grip and oversteer and as a result he had been dropping back from Rockenfeller. The team made a decision to bring Paffett in on lap 25 for an early pitstop to give him fresh tyres and attempt to rectify the problem.
Paffett rejoined the track in P8 and while the rest of the field took their second pitstops, Paffett focused on closing the gap to the cars in front.
The car was strong for the next five laps, but then Paffett suffered from the same issue as before with the rear tyres going off, losing grip and suffering from oversteer.
On lap 36 Di Resta was the last driver to make his second pitstop. This late pitstop strategy meant that he was able to leapfrog Paffett, Rockenfeller and Schieder, which left Paffett in P4 with eleven laps to go.
The oversteer and lack of grip was particularly bad during the last five laps of the race which meant Tomczyk was able to close the gap to Paffett.
Despite this, Paffett managed to hold off an attack from Tomczyk and crossed the line in a solid fourth position; picking up another five Championship points.
"With only three races to go, the aim was always to win this race and pick up maximum points so I am a little disappointed with fourth position. The conditions have been variable all weekend so while I was fairly pleased with P3 for qualifying, the lack of dry running meant we weren't able to get the balance of the car right so the race was tough;" commented Paffett.
"However, as we saw today with Bruno's retirement, anything can happen with racing and there are still 20 points up to grab so I will be approaching the final two races with the aim of taking both wins;" continued Paffett.
Today's result sees Paffett maintain his third place in the Championship with 49 points, 11 points behind second-placed Spengler and 14 points behind Di Resta who is now leading the Championship. With two races to go in the 2010 season Paffett's team - Salzgitter Mercedes-Benz AMG - currently lead the team ranking with (109) points.
Gary Paffett will head to Adria for Round Ten of the Championship on the 31st October.
-source: Gary Paffett