by Russell Atkins

TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE

To read the interview in full, click here

She may still have to open her points-scoring account in the DTM, but Susie Stoddart insists the pressure is off in 2008 - as she enters the campaign with her best chance yet to impress.

The Scot has moved across from M?cke Motorsport to Persson Motorsport for the new campaign - set to get into gear at her favourite circuit of Hockenheim this weekend - and she says she has settled in well, and is particularly enthusiastic about the opportunity to be working alongside 2005 DTM title-winner and Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes Formula One test driver Gary Paffett this year.

"Obviously whenever you join a new team it's different people you're working with and a different way of doing things," she acknowledged, speaking to Crash.net Radio, "and that takes a bit of adapting to. I was very happy at my old team M?cke, but I was switched over to Persson and I'm very happy there also. 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, which is a great situation for me to be in.

"I've learned a lot from my team-mates, 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.

"Gary has such a wide depth of knowledge because obviously he's been there and done it. With him being a DTM champion I can learn a lot from him as well; 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."

Another one of Stoddart's team-mates at Mercedes-Benz this year is Ralf Schumacher, The fast lady from Oban is convinced the German's arrival can only be good news for the hyper-competitive pan-European tin-top series.

"We met at a PR day," she recalled, "and I have to say it was a really pleasant surprise. He's a really nice, down-to-earth guy. He's the second-most successful German Formula 1 driver, and I think he's going to be strong in the DTM; he's shown good pace in the tests so far, and he's been made to feel very welcome by Mercedes-Benz. I think he's really going to enjoy himself.

"Based on how much press the DTM has attracted throughout the winter time, it's been phenomenal, and most of that is regarding Ralf. I think it's going to create huge interest, and that's great for the championship; that's what I love to see.

"The DTM deserves to be bigger and better than people give it credit for, and I think Ralf will help to bring the series along. Schumacher is such a famous name in the whole world really, so yeah, I think it's great for the championship."

As to her own chances in 2008, Stoddart is playing her cards close to her chest, explaining that she is no longer going to be putting herself under any pressure to break her series' points duck, whilst at the same time re-iterating her belief that with Persson she is in for comfortably the finest season of her DTM career.

"We have one official test left to do at Oschersleben, so we have a bit of work to do there," the 25-year-old reflected, "but it's really exciting and I'm looking forward to the season's first race at the Hockenheimring on 13 April. 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.

"We were very lucky this year in 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-Benz DTM 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.

"For me personally [being given a 2007-spec machine] is a huge step forward; the fact that Mercedes-Benz slimmed down their team by one car but that I was still given an '07-spec car was great for me, and I was very proud to get it. It looks like an awesome racing car and I'm very, very happy to be in just a one-year-old car this year.

"Last year I said my aim was points, but as we all know to score points in the DTM is not an easy feat. This year, instead of putting pressure on myself and saying 'I want points', I think the first aim is to be on a par with my team-mates and do the best possible job that I can. If that brings me points then that's great, and for sure that is my overall aim.

"It will be interesting to see how it pans out with the new pit-stop windows - it's going to be slightly different this year, so I think it will be interesting for the fans as well. The DTM is at such a high level now, and the most important thing for me is to be close to my team-mates because they're in the same machinery as me and the same year of car. That's what I'm focussing on."

TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE

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