Gary Paffett has been promoted into the front rank of his Mercedes DTM team with the announcement, a month before the season is due to start, that he will be racing in 2009-spec machinery.
Paffett will join Formula One hopeful and 2008 series runner-up Paul di Resta, veteran racer Ralf Schumacher and Canadian Bruno Spengler in the latest models.
Susie Stoddart and Jamie Green will be driving 2008-spec cars – with Green seeing a demotion despite being Mercedes’ second most competitive driver behind Di Resta – alongside Maro Engel and Mathias Lauda.
The team had been talking to Bruno Senna, nephew of Brazilian F1 great Ayrton, following his failure to secure a drive with the reborn Brawn/Honda team. But it has not resulted in a DTM drive.
The UK’s other two DTM entrants, Oliver Jarvis and Katherine Legge, have retained their drives with Mercedes’ rival Audi. Legge has been promoted to a newer car, but otherwise the opposing line-up is unchanged.
Norbert Haug, Mercedes’ motorsport boss, said of the team: “In Stuttgart, we are very proud that we have again significantly increased our sponsorship budget despite difficult economic conditions, a set of circumstances which has worked in favour of the DTM series.
“At the same time, we have undergone a rigid efficiency and cost-reduction programme during the winter. On this occasion, I want to thank our entire team, be it drivers, technicians, organisers, media, controlling or marketing colleagues for their efforts which made this possible.
“Now we all look forward to the new season, and with our driver team and the C-Class we want to provide the fans with exciting races.”
Long-standing McLaren tester Paffett, and not for the first time, described DTM as his “favourite series” and said he is looking forward to competing in a front-running car for the first time since 2005.
Green echoed his sentiments: “In my eyes, the DTM is the best touring car series. Here you fight for every metre and every tenth of a second. Not only this, but I also like the spectators — and fortunately there are many of them.”