DTM » 18 April 2004
Hockenheim 2004: Paffett breaks through.
At the end of the 2004 DTM season opening race three youngsters gathered on the winners' rostrum - on top was Gary Paffett. After 37 laps, the 23-year-old Brit won, having a lead of 2.258 seconds over his Mercedes team colleague Christijan Albers and Audi pilot Mattias Ekström.
During the three-day event at the Hockenheimring Baden-Württemberg, a total 118,000 spectators came, which is a record for DTM in Hockenheim.
On Sunday, viewers witnessed a thrilling race, distinguished by several duels and changes in lead. After a rock-like introduction by Jeanette Biedermann and Martin Kesici who performed an ARD Chart Show concert right before start, with thousands of young fans 'rocking', DTM's stars played an engines' concert on the track.
One of the protagonists was Peter Dumbreck in an Opel Vectra GTS V8 - after gearbox problems in Saturday's qualifying, the Scotsman had started from 21st position but he caught up to 6th place after a tough hunt.
For long, no one could have predicted that one of the youngsters would win the title in DTM 2004's first race.
At first, two experienced DTM stars manoeuvred their Mercedes' into top positions. Jean Alesi, who had started from the pole, took the lead and headed the 21 drivers lap by lap. But damage on his car's under-tray as a result of a slipping accident during warm-up forced the former F1 pilot to give up on lap 27.
Bernd Schneider then positioned himself on top after overtaking Paffett, but the Brit followed him lap by lap as if he was a shadow. Finally Schneider had to give up. "Twice I had contact with my rivals. Apparently something was damaged by that", he explained.
Paffett, who for the 2004 season ascended into Mercedes-Benz' HWA factory-side team, is happy about his first DTM win: "It all went perfect. I had a good start and everything was under control."
Mercedes' sporting director Norbert Haug lauded: "Gary has rewarded us for the trust we put in him. We have a great team, but this season will be no joyride, considering the fact that all three brands' lap times were nearly identical."
As best Audi pilot, Matthias Ekström managed to join Paffett on the winners' rostrum. When crossing the finishing line, Swede Ekström lagged Paffett by 9.200 seconds. "1:0 for the youngsters", Ekström rejoiced after the race. "This was a very good debut for Audi's factory-side comeback to DTM. I was fast on track. Unfortunately, Mercedes was a little faster today. We will work hard until Estoril, in order to be on top by then," he said – a challenge for the next race in Portugal in two weeks.
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