by Russell Atkins
Susie Stoddart has vowed to put a frustrating start to the 2007 season behind her by hitting back with a vengeance at the Eurospeedway Lausitz this weekend – and scoring her maiden points in the championship.
The Mercedes ace – one of a record five Brits competing in the pan-European tin-top series this year – was eliminated in the opening lap mêlée at Hockenheim last month, which left her on the back foot and in the spare car last time out at Oschersleben. The net result was a distant 16th place at the chequered flag, whilst compatriot and team-mate Paul di Resta crossed the finish line in second place.
“Oschersleben was just a complete disaster for us,” she admitted to Crash.net
. “I was unfortunate in that I couldn't use my car from Hockenheim; it was too badly damaged in the accident, which meant we had to revert to using the other car, and from the minute that ran we had problems.
“We had limited running on the Friday, and when you miss some track time like that you are always playing catch-up – everybody else is progressing with their set-up and their pace, whereas you haven't even started yet. We managed to change a few things on the Saturday night which helped a little bit for the race, but we were off the pace the whole weekend.”
It was not all bad news, however, with a 12th-place qualifying position in the curtain-raiser at Hockenheim – easily the highest starting spot of Susie's DTM career – proving the pace is irrefutably there. All she needs now is a little bit of luck.
“One of my biggest weaknesses last year was my qualifying performance,” the 24-year-old confessed, “but I practised very hard throughout winter testing on new tyre runs to try to improve that, and it appears to have worked. I think the fact the tyres are slightly different this year has also played in my favour.
“We were not just quick in qualifying at Hockenheim though; we were quick in every session. From the minute we arrived there people started the rumours that I was running light in practice because they didn't believe that was my true pace, but we managed to nail it in qualifying. It's so very close in the DTM this year that you really have to have everything perfect if you want a chance of scoring points; everybody out there is pushing so hard and the teams are running at such a high level now that there's absolutely no margin for error.
“Unfortunately I went out of the race through no fault of my own, but I said to Norbert Haug afterwards I would much rather be in 12th position, fighting for points in the midfield and end up in the crash barriers than down in 18th place, running at the back of the pack and just going round without actually battling with anybody. I did that last year and did what I had to do, but I've got the experience now. This year is all about fighting, and if that means I get caught up in more first lap shunts then so be it. It's all about progressing up through the order.”
That is precisely what the former British F3 star intends to do at Lausitz this weekend, stressing consistency and routinely making it through to the second stage of qualifying will be the key to her points-scoring chances over the campaign.