Having won the DTM season opener at Hockenheim, and backed that up with a second place at the Lausitzring, there was little doubt that Gary Paffett would be on the pace once again at Brands Hatch. Qualifying on pole and controlling the race from the front, Paffett did not disappoint, and eased to his 19th career win, his first on home soil.
“It’s a great feeling to win my home race,” the British driver said. “It was a perfect race that we controlled from start to finish. Still, it was not easy, as Bruno Spengler kept piling on the pressure but we stayed in front. Three races, two wins and one second place – let's hope this season continues just as it began!”
As is so often the case at the claustrophobic 1.2 mile Indy circuit, the race was decided at the start. Paffett was able to hold off the fast-starting BMW of his former team-mate Bruno Spengler, and pulled away from the chasing pack led by Mike Rockenfeller and Filipe Albuquerque, with Martin Tomczyk stalking the pair of them. The reigning champion had fallen to seventh at the start, but quickly picked off Christian Vietoris, who fluffed his first front-row start, and Adrien Tambay to settle in behind Albuquerque. Despite loosing his wingman, Paffett was unflappable. Nothing Spengler could do unsettled the HWA man, who set about building an unassailable lead.
“It reminded me of my win at the Lausitzring, but with the roles reversed,” said Spengler, who is comfortably second in points.
But in the end it was the Canadian Spengler who came under most pressure, with Rockenfeller filling his mirrors in the closing laps. But once in the dirty air of the BMW, a pass for second was out of the question. Nevertheless, third place equalled Audi's best result of the year, and came as a great relief to Rockenfeller after a poor performance at the Lausitzring which saw him finish only 13th.
“I'm very pleased with the race because we squeezed out the maximum,” the German said.
Tomczyk finished right on Rockenfeller's boot-lid after taking far too long to dispose of a determined. Albuquerque, whose race was ruined by a dreadful second tyre-stop. This would drop the Portugese behind Audi colleague Mattias Ekstrom and a recovering Vietoris, who was able to hold off a charging Miguel Molina for sixth. After starting a disappointing tenth on the grid, Jamie Green was able to progress to eighth by the finish after passing both Team Rosberg cars of Edoardo Mortara and the brake-less Albuquerque in the closing stages. His worst result of the year drops him to fourth in the standings, and leaves him already 34 points down on team-mate Paffett.
The rest of the British contingent also struggled. David Coulthard was the first car one lap down in 15th, and Susie Wolff was 20th after being demoted to the back of the grid for ignoring waved yellow flags in the warm-up. Andy Prialux was a casualty of early contact with Coulthard at Graham Hill Bend, and after limping around for 12 laps pulled in to retire.
“The whole front splitter was damaged and that was the end of the race,” said the disappointed Prialux, the triple WTCC champion. “It was very unlucky and a disappointing weekend for me overall. But that is motor racing and you just have to take it on the chin and move on.
“Overall I haven't felt really comfortable from the first laps this weekend, and I just have to understand what is going on. We will come back next year and make amends.”
The DTM moves on to Spielburg for the round 4 of the championship on June 3rd.