Fassler ready for Opel challenge

Marcel F?ssler has spent all his four years in the DTM with Mercedes but now it's time for a change. Last week F?ssler announced that he is moving to Opel for 2004 and is ready for a new challenge. After three fourth places in the championship standings, 2003 saw the Swiss move up to third at the end of the season after a long fight for the title with fellow Mercedes HWA drivers Bernd Schneider and Christijan Albers.

Marcel Fassler.
Photo by Nikki Reynolds.
However, despite his performance in 2003, there was no guarantee F?ssler would stay with HWA next year, the squad that fields the four new models each season. The possibility that he may end up with a year old, uncompetitive chassis with Mercedes was not an enticing prospect and F?ssler decided to take his future into his own hands.

"Mercedes have not decided who would be driving the new cars next season but I made my decision," F?ssler told Motorsport.com. "There was a chance I would get a new car but not necessarily; I didn't know what the situation was. So I took the chance with Opel."

The 27-year old is slightly disappointed to end his time with Mercedes but felt it better to be secure in his future than wait for someone else to decide it for him. "After four years, maybe it's better to have a change," he said. "I had good results in my time with Mercedes, I would have liked to have won the championship with them but the future was too uncertain."

F?ssler will get a new car with Opel in 2004, the Vectra GTS that the manufacturer is introducing. He already knew Opel boss Volker Strycek from before he entered the DTM. "I had had good contact with Strycek from Formula 3 in 1999, when I drove with an Opel engine," F?ssler explained, but he doesn't think it's necessarily an advantage. "I know some of the guys from Opel -- but it was five years ago and you can't really compare F3 and DTM."

Opel is aiming to field at least four new Vectras, work on which will start in January, and the roll-out is scheduled for February. Manuel Reuter and Peter Dumbreck are already signed up for 2004 but the rest of the team is yet to be decided. Former Audi driver and 2002 DTM champion Laurent Aiello is speculated to be in discussions with Opel, as well as ex-F1 driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen.

For F?ssler, the time before he gets behind the wheel of the Opel will pass slowly: "I don't know when I will drive the new car," he said. "I hope it will be as soon as possible. Now I'm looking forward to a new challenge."