Gary Paffett: “You have to drive all thoughts out of your mind in order to focus on your job”

August 2017

Gary Paffett: “You have to drive all thoughts out of your mind in order to focus on your job”

DTM champion, team captain and thoroughbred racing driver – that's Gary Paffett as we know him in the DTM. We reveal the person behind the racing driver in a three-part interview. In Part 2, Gary talks about...

  • ... his first date with his wife: “I'm pretty certain that she said 'no'.“
  • ... becoming a father at a young age: “You could say that 2004 and 2005 were my best years in the DTM despite having just become a father for the first time”
  • ... his children as racing drivers: “They're all as keen as mustard, but I don't care much for them doing it”

Gary, you met your wife, Lisa, through motor racing, if I'm not wrong?

Gary Paffett: Yes, indeed! Lisa's brother Craig is about three years younger than me and he drove on the same weekends as me only in a different class. They used to come to the race track as a family just like us, so I first met Lisa at the track, when I was about 14 or 15.

Can you remember the first time you asked her out on a date?

Gary Paffett: Yes, and I'm pretty certain that she said no. (laughs) I didn't have my driving licence at the time, and our parents had to drive us. I went to see her around the New Year or New Year's Eve, I think. It was definitely at Christmas time. In any case, I asked her for a date and she said 'yes', but then the very next day, she told me that she was already going out with someone else and couldn't see me. I just kept trying after that. As you can see, I got my girl in the end, but she had her life at home to live, and it was only when we are able to drive ourselves that we got together.

Did she also contest races back then?

Gary Paffett: No. I think she tried it once and almost got hurt. She packed it in at that point.

What has been the scariest moment of your life?

Gary Paffett: Well now, let me have a think, a scary moment. Losing one of my children in the supermarket, most probably. (laughs) I don't know. There haven't been too many moments in my private life when I've been really frightened. The worst moments have probably been in a racing car. Apart from that, I lead a rather quiet life, but my worst nightmare is if something were to happen to Lisa or the kids. If I'm expecting her home, and she doesn't turn up, and I can't reach her, or you suddenly turn around and the kids are gone and you have to look for them, that's when I'm most worried. Or if one of them has hurt themselves.

You were quite young when you became a father for the first time. What effect did it have on your motor racing career?

Gary Paffett: We weren't at all worried at the time and just said to ourselves, OK, it wasn't planned, but we'll manage. Even at that young age, I continued to do what I had to do. Lisa is incredible, she always does the right thing. She knows when I need my rest or when I've got a lot on my plate. She then just takes charge and looks after everything. That's just how it was when Harvey arrived. He was born in early 2004, in my first year in the DTM with HWA. I won the first race at Hockenheim, so obviously, it wasn't a bad thing. When I look back, you could say that 2004 and 2005 were my two best years in the DTM despite being a father for the first time. I've never felt that it impinged on my life in a negative way in the sport.

After Harvey was born, they both came to every race for the next two years. As a baby, he used to sleep every night in the same hotel room as us every race weekend. Other drivers organise a second room for their wife and baby, so that they can have some peace and quiet. OK, I've always been able to sleep very well and that helped me, no doubt. For Lisa, it's probably a very annoying character trait that I can forget everything around me and focus on just one thing. When I arrive at the circuit and am about to get into the car, I'm able to forget everything. Nothing can distract me. I focus on myself and my racing. I think about nothing else. Some people might think that it's not right to simply forget everything, but you have to be able to do that. You have to drive everything else out of your mind to concentrate on your job. I can do that, and it doesn't even happen consciously but automatically.

Are your sons also keen on motor racing?

Gary Paffett: They're all really passionate about it, but I don't care for them doing it. They've taken go-karts out a couple of times and enjoyed it. They would honestly all like to do it, but the sport has changed since I first got started. However, it's not just that. I also look at the path I've travelled and at the people I've met, at the people who didn't make it and could have, and I sometimes even think to myself that I should have done more than I have.

Sure, every job is hard, and maybe you're not successful and other people are, but I think motor racing is a really tough sport to be successful in, especially if you don't have a lot of money. The sums needed today to earn your living through motor racing are quite hefty. What you want for your children is for them to pursue something that makes them money. They should be able to make a living at it and have a career like me. At the moment, I don't think it's easy for young drivers to get started and make a career of it. It's something that you can enjoy and have fun doing, but I don't think it's easy for a driver to make a living from it. There are very few people out there who can say that their whole life and career consists of just racing.



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    DTM: Gary Paffett, The Person – Part 2
    DTM: Gary Paffett, The Person – Part 2