by Russell AtkinsTO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE
Gary Paffett admits he was surprised to have won a race in a year-old machine during his DTM comeback last year, but standing up on the top step of the podium is clearly something he plans on doing a good deal more of in 2008.
The 26-year-old lifted the DTM laurels for Mercedes in 2005, but when he returned two years later it was behind the wheel of one of the three-pointed star's year-old C-Classes – hardly a strong starting point given the impressive strength of the competition in the pan-European tin-top series. Despite this disadvantage, Paffett was in the points on his return and emerged victorious at Oschersleben just two weeks later – in the process making history as the series' first driver ever to triumph in a non-current spec machine.
“It was great to come back,” he reflected, speaking exclusively to Crash.net Radio
. “It's a great series, and I really enjoyed racing again. It's racing that I missed when I wasn't racing in 2006, and that's what I really loved about getting back into the seat.
“The championship is as strong as it's ever been. I think the driver line-up gets perhaps a bit stronger in-depth every year, so it has if anything become more competitive. It's a real duel between the two German giants (Mercedes and Audi). Sometimes it gets a bit out-of-hand, but generally it's a good, tough battle and I think everybody really enjoys the series.
“Winning at Oschersleben was a massive bonus for me, and that's what I want to do – I want to be out racing and winning races. That's the biggest aim really.
“I didn't expect to win. There's no way of expecting to win [in a year-old car] – it's never happened before and it hasn't happened since – but certainly we had a chance to win a race and we took that chance. I think that's what it's all about; when you're in a year-old car you have to take your chances when you get them, and that's what we did.”
As to what the forthcoming season holds, Paffett is in contention for a 2008 car, but he equally faces stiff opposition from the likes of Paul di Resta, Jamie Green and even Ralf Schumacher. Whatever he ends up racing, he will dovetail his DTM commitments with testing for McLaren-Mercedes in Formula 1, as he has done since 2006, and he is clearly relishing the dual challenge that lies ahead.
“We haven't really discussed much,” the former McLaren Autosport BRDC Award
winner explained, “so we just need to wait, have some discussions with Mercedes and see what is on offer. We just haven't finalised everything yet.”
To read the interview in full, click hereTO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE