After three seasons spent competing in the DTM, Susie Stoddart remains in search of her first points in the leading pan-European touring car series, but having made encouraging progress in 2008, she is confident of finally breaking that duck in 2009.

Tenth place at the Norisring back in June may have been Stoddart's best finish of last season, but that is to betray what was a generally promising campaign, as three times she qualified 15th in a year-old Mercedes-Benz C-Class and in the penultimate meeting at Le Mans in France even lined up ahead of former championship-winning, Persson Motorsport team-mate and occasional McLaren-Mercedes Formula 1 test driver Gary Paffett, an impressive feat indeed.

"I think overall it was a positive year," the Scot reflected, speaking exclusively to Radio. "My aim was to be on a par with my team-mates in the same car, and I think I achieved that. For sure it could have been better and I've got a lot of work to do over the winter-time, so I hope to be even stronger this year.

"Highlights from the year were my strong race and qualifying at the Norisring, and the N?rburgring was okay as well. It seems so long ago now, but for sure there were some strong races. There were also some not-so-strong races, though, so I'll be trying to find a bit more consistency this year."

Confessing that the '07-spec Mercedes was 'a little bit too far off the pace, especially compared to the '07 Audi', Stoddart was nonetheless quick to praise the Stuttgart marque's Ingolstadt rival for having come out of the starting blocks fighting. Now, she insists, it is up to the three-pointed star to do likewise in 2009.

"I think they (Audi) came out with a very, very strong car at the start of the year," the 26-year-old acknowledged, "but full respect to HWA and Mercedes-Benz - they clawed it back and fought very hard throughout the year, and they took it down to the wire at the last race.

"Audi did come out with a very strong car, but I think Mercedes by the last race had got on a par with their car and were able to take the fight to them. Both teams will be working very hard over the winter to develop, and I think it should be closer this year.

"I don't think any confirmation has been made by Mercedes-Benz yet, but I expect to be there again this year and the aims are definitely to score points and to be in the top eight. I've said that every season that I've been in the DTM, but it's not quite as simple as just having a good race and then you'll be in the points.

"There are eight factory cars that normally should be in the top eight, so it's going to be tough, but Gary showed what's possible. He's a former DTM Champion and it was great to have him as a team-mate - I learned a lot from him - and I'm with a great team in Persson Motorsport, with great engineers. There's no real reason, if the car is quick enough, that I can't be there or thereabouts."

The fast lady from Oban was also open about the much-rumoured possibility of a third manufacturer coming along to spoil Mercedes and Audi's party in the near future. The last time the championship pitted three different marques up against each other was five years ago, when Opel was also part of the fray.

Citro?n is the name that has been mentioned most in connection with a DTM entry, and there have also been murmurings of an Alfa Romeo return for the first time since the old series was canned back in 1996 due to ever-escalating expenditure. Stoddart explained that whilst the championship is in fine fettle as it is at the moment, another manufacturer would certainly not harm its international allure.

"Lots of names get circulated in the paddock," the former McLaren/Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year finalist mused, "but I think some more than others are interested - maybe Citro?n, Lexus, Alfa Romeo - so we'll see what the future holds.

"I think it would be great for the championship, but I will always say it's a great championship with only two. It was a record crowd at Hockenheim for the last race (in 2008) and it really is a successful championship, but of course no-one's going to deny the fact that a third manufacturer would be great, especially if it was a manufacturer outside of Germany.

"That would open the DTM up to being a big spectacle not just in Germany. I think in the future it's going to get stronger and stronger. I don't think it will ever be a case of them never finding a third manufacturer; I think in the future it will definitely happen."




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