With two victories from three DTM races so far this season, Gary Paffett currently leads the point standings with a 25-point margin over second placed BMW driver Bruno Spengler, this season’s other race victor. TouringCarTimes spoke to Paffett about season 2012.
With a string of strong results, it’s not surprising that Paffett describes his start to the season as ‘perfect’: “It’s a perfect start to the year. If someone told me before the season I would have been disappointed not to have won all of the races then I’d have laughed at them I think because it’s such a tight championship. We can’t start thinking about the championship too much right now but certainly we couldn’t have hoped for a better start. Three races, two wins and one second place – let’s hope this season continues just as it began.”
A new set of regulations for 2012 have meant that all manufacturers in the series are running new cars, with each incorporating identical safety structures as well as identical performance-related assembly components. Though the manufacturers still have control over aerodynamics, suspension and engine development.
Paffett is comfortable in his new DTM Mercedes AMG C-Coupé: “It’s good. I had a bad year last year and it was so difficult to understand why. I think if it was obvious we would have fixed it during the season but we didn’t manage to get our heads around it. I was the first one to test this car and I’ve done a lot of work with the car and the team and we’ve built a good car and I just feel more comfortable with this car. We have bigger tyres this year which give you more mechanical grip and I feel I can push the car harder and get more out of the car. Whereas I felt last year if you pushed the car quite hard it was always on a knife edge and you could lose a lot of time, but this year I feel a lot more comfortable pushing the car hard. You never know until you start racing where you are, so Hockenheim was a massive relief to know that we were on the pace and able to fight for wins.”
When asked how he felt about the return of BMW to the championship in 2012, the Mercedes driver had the following to say: “It’s excellent. We’d obviously like to be a lot quicker than them but I think the fact that they’re competitive from the start is quite good and because it’s a very manufacturer driven championship you just get a whole host of new supporters, BMW fans that are now coming to watch the races and now into DTM even more. We’ve got some new teams, we’ve got some new drivers, some of them I know some of them I don’t so it’s just added something extra to DTM and it’s definitely a big plus for the Championship.”
The change in regulations and the addition of BMW is making the championship as competitive as ever according to Paffett: “I think it’s just as competitive, but this year if not more than before. I think we all expected there to be bigger gaps this year with BMW coming in and with complete new cars for everybody. I think we expected there to be some gaps in the field but there really aren’t any gaps. There’s no room for error, especially in qualifying. The field is as tight as it ever has been and the level of competition through the field is so very tight and so very high that I think this is the most competitive championship in the world. This year is different to last year’s in that we don’t have new and old cars. They’re all brand new cars, which gives every single person in each car an opportunity to be on pole. So it makes it incredibly competitive and that’s what makes it so difficult in qualifying is that one minute you can be first and the next minute you can be fifteenth or sixteenth.”