by Russell Atkins
Susie Stoddart may have ultimately come up just short in her stated aim of scoring a point in the DTM this year – her sophomore season in the leading European tin-top series – but she is convinced she can make it third time lucky in 2008.
The Scot achieved a best qualifying position of twelfth and a best race finish of tenth place in 2007 – just two spots shy of the points – in her 2005-spec Mücke Motorsport Mercedes C-Class. Had Lady Luck not deserted her when she was looking well on course to break her points duck at the Eurospeedway Lausitz back in May, though – a race dogged by controversial safety car decisions that mistakenly put some drivers, Stoddart included, a lap down – the story could have been rather different.
“I have to admit this year wasn't everything I had hoped it would be,” she candidly acknowledged, speaking exclusively to Crash.net Radio
, “but it had its positive moments and I certainly still learned a hell of a lot. I was a lot closer to the pace at every race this year.
“It's very easy to look at qualifying and results and to think 'hey, it wasn't that great a year', but then when I look behind those and realise what I've achieved in certain circumstances I have to be happy with it. The DTM is incredibly tough, but I know I can achieve results there and 2007 just confirmed that. For me overall, it was another good year, and I'm feeling really positive ahead of next year.”
There was certainly a marked improvement in qualifying form this season, with the 24-year-old insisting the 2005-spec car was a lot closer to the front-running pace than the 2004-spec one had been the previous year.
“I think the whole weight penalty rule made a big difference to the two-year-old cars and meant we could fight harder,” she asserted. “That enabled me to learn so much more about the car, and in the DTM you never stop learning.
“We had some great moments in qualifying – like at Hockenheim, the Norisring and the Nürburgring – and some great races like the Lausitzring, where we battled hard and should have finished fifth but didn't because of the whole fiasco with the safety cars.”
Now turning her attentions to 2008, the fast lady from Oban – a BRDC McLaren Autosport Young Driver of the Year Award
finalist five years ago – has high hopes, and justifiably so.
“I hope there are going to be some changes to the championship,” she said, “especially in terms of strategy concerning when people can make pit-stops, giving all the cars a bit of a fairer chance. People shouldn't be able to have great races purely through strategy, or be hampered by their strategy.