Paffett wins as older cars have their day again
1 January 1901
Gary Paffett returned to the DTM winners circle after claiming an opportunistic victory at the Oschersleben, a result that also marks a surprise win for the year-old Mercedes C-Class.
Adding to the credence of potential claims that the weight breaks now favour older machines too much, Paul di Resta was a superb second in his two-year old Mercedes, while Mike Rockenfeller completed the podium in his 'used' Rosberg Audi A4.
A race that once again had more to do with strategy rather than on-track passing manoeuvres, victory for Paffett came after choosing a late pit strategy that helped him pump in the fast laps he needed to deny early leaders Rockenfeller and Mika Hakkinen.
From the start, Rockenfeller got the jump on a rather laboured Hakkinen, the Finn also falling behind Mattias Ekstrom to finish the first lap in third place. The Swede however was quickly judged to have jumped the start and duly given a drive-through penalty to drop him out of contention.
With the first laps over with, Rockenfeller established an early lead, ahead of Hakkinen, Bruno Spengler, Paffett – starting well from eighth - Timo Scheider, Christian Abt, Jamie Green and Paul di Resta.
Hakkinen though was on a charge, closing quickly on the German as the first round of pit stops got underway, the Finn diving in first and doing enough in his clear laps to emerge back ahead when Rockenfeller completed his stop two laps later.
It left Paffett in the lead, the 2005 Champion moving to the front of the field when Spengler was forced to retire with the similar power steering problems that blighted him during the first round at Hockenheim.
With the positions scattered between those who had pitted once and those that had pitted twice, including Hakkinen who was back in for another pit stop on lap 15 to take him to the end of the race, it was not clear for some laps as to whom had the advantage.
However, it was the strategy of pitting later that was proving most beneficial on the day and when Paffett came back into the pit lane for his second stop on lap 29, he returned back ahead of Hakkinen, Rockenfeller, Scheider and Martin Tomczyk.
Not that it was Paffett who had resumed the lead, instead di Resta, Mathias Lauda, Frank Biela and Marco Werner remaining out on the circuit for some time before completing their second mandatory stop. Eventually, di Resta made his final stop, remarkably doing enough to get back out behind Paffett in second place.
With a clear track in front of him, Paffett wasted no time in establishing a gap between himself and di Resta, the Laureus C-Class crossing the line at the end of the 44 laps with a comfortably margin to evoke memories of his championship winning exploits in 2005 when he last stood on the DTM podium.
“Just great,” he said. “Today, I had an excellent start, a brilliant strategy, perfect pit stops and a clear run almost all the time I knew that we could win when we would have a perfect day and today it was.”
di Resta was a superb second place in his ageing C-Class, the reigning Formula 3 Euroseries Champion not only recording the best result for a two-year old car, but also moving into the joint lead of the championship.
“Being second in the second race is just incredible,” he beamed. “Already now, I have achieved more than I would even have dreamt of. In the first race, I could already have been on the podium, but back then, it didn't work out. Today, it did.”
Third place turned into a contentious affair when Rockenfeller made a determined effort to wrestle the final spot on the podium off Hakkinen, the German making contact with the Finn on the penultimate lap and sneaking through. For Hakkinen though, he suffered a puncture that forced him into the pit lane with only a lap left to run.
Scheider was the best of the 2007 machinery in fourth, ahead of Abt Sportsline team-mate Tomczyk, while Bernd Schneider fought back to sixth after stalling on the grid at the start of the race. Ekstrom was another to recover back into the points to secure seventh place, while Alex Margaritis defied a poor qualifying performance to snare the final point in eighth.