until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Touring Car

Why a DTM legend is returning in an ‘unconventional’ car

by Sam Smith
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Gary Paffett is not viewing his return to the DTM as a pure technical project and is adamant that he can ultimately challenge at the front of the field in time.

The two-time DTM champion, who left after winning his second title in 2018 to join the Mercedes Formula E project, will run an AMG-supported Mucke Motorsport entry, which will showcase new steering technology called ‘Space Drive’ developed by the Schaeffler Paravan technology company.

Effectively a force-feedback steering system rather than a direct steering set-up, it has no direct connection between steering wheel and steering column. In addition the system is being used to further develop diagnostic capabilities via additional sensor technology.

It was run in the DTM-supporting GTC series as a development project in 2020, with Audi development driver Markus Winkelhock among the drivers having raced with it.

The system has now been granted a licence by the German motorsport federation, the DMSB, to compete in the DTM with the Mucke Motorport Mercedes GT3 car.

Garry Paffett Mercedes DTM

“We might not be quite on the pace of the conventional cars at the moment, but it’s certainly not something I’m going to be using as an excuse after every race because we’re there to race and we’re there to compete,” Paffett told The Race.

“We have to try and get the system to a point where we can compete at the front as quickly as we can and that’s our that’s our aim.

“But at the same time we have to accept that it’s a project and it’s not going to be easy going out winning races initially.

“We’re out there to accelerate the development of this project as much as we can, and hopefully go and get some results at the same time.

“I’ve no negative feelings in terms of that, I know what we’re there for. So I’m just mainly excited to get back on the grid and get back racing, because I’ve certainly missed it.”

Paffett last raced in 2019 with a Strakka Racing Mercedes GT3 car in the Intercontinental GT Challenge.

He has since attended Formula E races in his role as sporting and technical advisor and reserve and development driver for the Mercedes EQ Formula E Team.

The 40 year-old says that a return to the DTM was far from his mind until recently and he believed that the series was far from sure to continue at all in 2021.

“If I’m totally honest, I wasn’t confident that DTM would survive the winter,” said Paffett.

Gary Paffett DTM champion

“The change to GT cars and how difficult it would be to get to get manufacturers interested and teams interested was obvious.

“But Gerhard Berger has done an incredible job in getting AMG to come forward and put cars in and also getting the likes of Ferrari, Audi cars in the series, and they’re adding top drivers, on a weekly basis too.”

The deal with Mucke Motorsport was instigated by Hubert Hugle, who worked extensively with Paffett at HWA before joining the Schaeffler Paravan concern in 2019.

“Hubert is, is a good friend of mine and I worked with him for many years at HWA, and we got on so well when we were there.

“He’s been in contact with me ever since he left HWA. I think that once they decided to go racing with AMG they asked them for some suggestions of drivers and as soon as Hubert saw my name on that list he called.”

DTM has secured a substantial roster of entries for its first season with GT3 machinery in 2021. These include Timo Glock and Sheldon van der Linde in Rowe Racing-run BMW M6s, Lucas Auer in a Winward Racing-run Mercedes, 2020 runner-up Nico Mueller in a Team Rosberg-entered Audi R8 LMS GT3s and two-time champion Marco Wittmann in a Walkenhorst BMW.

DTM’s 2013 champion Mike Rockenfeller will race alongside factory Audi driver Kelvin van der Linde for the ABT Sportsline squad.

New blood in the series this season will include a third Abt-run Audi for Sophia Floersch, while former Jaguar and Red Bull F1 driver Christian Klien will compete on a part-time basis in a JP Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3.

Current Envision Virgin Racing Formula E driver Nick Cassidy will share aт AF Corse-run Ferrari 488 GT3 with Red Bull Racing reserve Alex Albon.

Jenson Button’s Team Rocket RJN was due to compete but has pulled out for 2021, instead aiming to enter a year later.

DTM has held the first of its two pre-season test at Hockenheim earlier this month, with Paffett in attendance.

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