DTM » 27 June 2004
Norisring 2004: Paffett back in the fight.
The winner of this year's season-opening DTM race is back with a vengeance, as Britain's Gary Paffett bounced back from the disappointment of having his Lausitzring victory taken away from him to win the fifth round in Nuremberg.
The works Mercedes driver was in emphatic form in front of a record 132,000 spectators, edging team-mate and defending champion Christijan Albers into second after 72 laps around the unique 2.3km street circuit.
Paffett started from second on the grid, alongside Mercedes' veteran Jean Alesi, but it was Albers, who had qualified third, who squeezed between them to take the lead on lap one. The Dutchman continued to lead until the first round of mandatory pit-stops, where Paffett took full advantage of a problem for his rival's car. The Briton stopped on lap eight, being turned around in 4.6secs, while Albers followed one lap later. Despite a fairly rapid turn around, the erstwhile leader stalled the engine due to clutch problem dropping behind both Paffett and Alesi by the time he rejoined. Reigning champion Bernd Schneider had slotted into fourth off the line, and retained the position through the stops.
The race was all about Mercedes at the front and, although Alesi eventually dropped back following an on-track incident, Paffett retained the lead through the second set of pit-stops to come ahead of Albers and Schneider, who inherited a rare podium finish.
“I'm really happy - this is the perfect response to what happened at the Lausitzring three weeks ago," Paffett grinned, "My team performed two great pit-stops, which were the basis for my victory.
"I started well, but Christijan started better. I tried not to push too hard in order not to put an large amount of pressure on the brakes and tyres, and my car was excellent. There were no problems whatsoever.“
Alesi's error was not enough to eliminate him, but a lap 64 trip into the tyre wall at the Grundig hairpin, the result of locked brakes, saw him come home tenth.
“I would have liked to have been on the podium too," the Frenchman sighed, "but a problem in the brake system prevented that today.”
Schneider swooped on his team-mate's misfortune to take third place, fending off a trio of Audis that secured the next three berths. Swede Mattias Ekström battled his way into fourth position from a ninth place start, picking up crucial points towards his championship challenge.
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