Bathgate’s Paul di Resta will take a break from his Formula One duties with Force India this weekend to launch his assault on the DTM Championship with Mercedes at Hockenheim.
The 24-year-old, who will be joined by fellow Scot and 13-time F1 grand prix winner David Coulthard for the first time on the grid, will again start the season as one of the favourites for the championship.
“We only missed out on the title in the final race in 2008 and then were forced to play catch-up last season after we struggled at the start of the year,” Di Resta, who will again lead the Mercedes challenge, said.
But while the season’s traditional opener at Hockenheim hasn’t been kind for the Scot — he’s finished 13th and fifth on his previous two outings — he’s confident things will improve this weekend.
“We’ve tested well during the close season and we’re certainly better prepared than we were this time last year,” Di Resta continued, “so I’m confident we can start the season with at least a podium.
“Having DC on the grid for this year is a big boost not just for the championship, but also for me. He was always one of the F1 racers I looked up to and now I have the chance to go head-to-head with him on the track. I’m really looking forward to it.”
While Di Resta will drive a state-of-the-art 2010-spec Mercedes C-class, 38-year-old Coulthard will cut his teeth in a 2008 model.
“Yeh, I may be at something of a disadvantage in terms of the car,” Coulthard, who will continue as BBC’s F1 pundit, admitted, “but I believe my racing ability will help redress the balance.
“I’ve long wanted to compete in DTM, which is acknowledged as being one of the world’s toughest saloon car championships. It’s going to be great fun, but I know it’s going to be very tough.
“By the time I get to lap 19 at Hockenheim, that will be one more than the consecutive number of laps I’ve ever done in a DTM car.
“I tested at Monteblanco, Portimao, and then two days at Valencia. I had some ups and downs; sometimes I’d put new tyres on and not deliver the laptime I was expecting to. That’s all part of the learning process.
“I have an open mind about the future, but you need this first season to know whether you can go forward, and see whether I’m enjoying it.”
The two Scots racers will face stiff competition not just from fellow Merc drivers, including Canadian Bruno Spengler and Ralf Schumacher, but also the Audis of former champs Timo Scheider and Mattias Ekstrom.