by Russell Atkins
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Heading into her third consecutive season in the DTM – motorsport's leading pan-European tin-top series – Susie Stoddart insists the pressure is off, and with one of the three-pointed star's potent 2007-spec C-Classes at her disposal Scotland's leading lady is well aware she has her greatest chance yet to impress.
caught up with the 25-year-old as she looked ahead to the opening round on the 2008 calendar at Hockenheim, hearing about why she is more revved up than ever and raring to get the new campaign into gear this weekend…
Susie, the 2008 DTM season isn't far away now, with the first round at Hockenheim this weekend. How excited are you feeling about it?
Very; we have one official test left to do at Oschersleben, so we have a bit of work to do there, but obviously it's really exciting and I'm looking forward to Hockenheim. It's all go, but that's the way I like it. It's been a long winter, I've joined a new team and I've been preparing and training hard, so I'm very much excited about the first race as opposed to nervous.
You mentioned you've joined a new team for 2008. How much of a change has that been for you? You're still with Mercedes, but how great a difference is there between the various teams within Mercedes?
Obviously whenever you join a new team it's different people you're working with and a different way of doing things, and that takes a bit of adapting to. I was very happy at my old team Mücke, but I was switched over to Persson and I'm very happy there also. I've learned a lot from my team-mates – obviously Gary Paffett is one of them – and it's a process of just improving all the time. I think there's a really good environment in my new team in which to make improvements and look forward to the year ahead.
You talk about Gary being one of your team-mates. He's a former DTM champion; you must be looking forward to working with him throughout the season..?
Yeah; he has such a wide depth of knowledge because obviously he's been there and done it. He knows how to win races and how to get the car set-up how you need it, so it's good to be working with him, and with Persson too. They had Bruno Spengler and Jamie Green before they moved up to the factory team. They try to nurture the young drivers and help them to develop; that's a great situation for me to be in, and with Gary being a DTM champion I can obviously learn a lot from him as well.
Racing drivers always say the winter is far too long; how has it been for you?
We're always kept busy with training and PR work, and we were very lucky this year that we got three fitness weeks – two in Austria and one in Finland. They were really, really good, and I think I speak for all the Mercedes drivers when I say we all feel more prepared than ever. It kind of gets to a stage in January when you're thinking 'ok, I've had a rest now, I've been training hard, now I want to drive again'. You have to wait until February, but it's so nice to get back in the car for the first test and just get everything going again and see all the familiar faces.