Susie Stoddart is having the time of her life in the DTM, and with the season set to resume from its mid-summer break at the Nurburgring this weekend, the young Scot says she is raring to get back on track.
Driving in her first year in the category, the 23-year-old from Oban is not only having to learn most of the circuits, but she is doing so in a Mercedes C-Klasse two years older than much of the opposition.
Although she has no points on the board at the halfway stage, Stoddart has impressed many with her enthusiastic and dedicated attitude, an approach that has seen her fight off the challenges of both fellow female driver Vanina Ickx, daughter of Formula One and Le Mans legend Jacky, and her own team-mate in the Mercedes camp, Mathias Lauda, son of three-time F1 world champion Niki.
“The sheer scale of the series is amazing, much bigger and better than I expected,” she enthused. “It was fantastic to go to the first round at Hockenheim and see 132,000 fans there, creating such a buzz. It's not until you go to a race meeting that isn't DTM or F1 that you realise quite how popular DTM is.”
Indeed, that first outing at Hockenheim was Susie's best showing of the year to date, with a strong tenth place finish. Where she has struggled is in qualifying, an undoubted legacy of her lack of prior knowledge of the majority of the tracks.
“I've been the fastest 2004 runner over the first five races and I have every intention of continuing to be so,” she added. “We have pretty much hit the limit of the '04 cars now which is why the lap times are so close. It's going to be incredibly tight for the rest of the season.
“This is an amazing opportunity for me to race against some incredible drivers, especially the F1 guys. On the track they treat me like any other driver but off the track they are happy to help. It's good that I can always call on drivers like Mika Hakkinen when I need advice and it was heart-warming to see their concern when I had the accident at the Norisring.
“I've had to earn their respect and I've done that by working hard during testing, keeping my head down, getting on with the work and not looking for excuses. We all go away on fitness weeks during the year and I work my butt off to make sure I compete on the same level as the guys and I think they appreciate that.”
The accident at the Norisring she refers to was one that left Susie battered and bruised after fellow Mercedes runner Daniel la Rosa suddenly lost brake pressure and speared into her. What made it all-the-more frustrating was the fact that at the time she was on course to beat former F1 ace Heinz-Harald Frentzen, no less.
“I would have liked to be able to say I had beaten Frentzen, especially with him being in a newer car,” she said, “but now I'm totally recovered and raring to go. I'm made of tough stuff and accidents are all part of the sport, so you learn to take things like this in your stride and keep your focus on the next race.”