Manuel Reuter has the vice-champion's spot within reach and Opel is = hoping to successfully round off this inaugural DTM season at the final = round of the German Touring Car Masters (DTM) at Hockenheim on October = 29. "Of course we want the last race of the season to be a good one," = explains Opel manager Volker Strycek. "But we will not shed tears if we = don't win; it has been an extremely successful season both for Opel and = for the DTM - it has exceeded all of our expectations."

Volker Strycek, who was the very first person to hold the DTM title in 1984, says: "As far as the DTM is concerned, we could never in our wildest dreams have imagined so much encouragement and such exciting races." An average crowd figure of 63,000 per race and a total of around 200 million television viewers verify Strycek's statement, as does the fact that most of the 15 DTM cars in the qualifying sessions were placed within one second of each other and had to fight hard for each position in the races. "It is not just the bare figures that have turned the new DTM back into what it used to be, but also the great atmosphere in the stands and in the teams' paddock."

Opel's results have turned out to be just as positive: six wins, 15 podium positions, three pole positions and five fastest race laps have been written up in Opel's DTM log. "The Opel V8 coupe has enabled us to succeed in bringing a rear-wheel-drive touring car on to the race track. It was evenly matched with strong competition from Mercedes right from the start race in Hockenheim," continued Strycek. "Of course we would have liked to have kept the title fight open until the last round, but the set-backs at the Sachsenring race due to tyres and at the first Nurburgring due to rain, prevented this. We have demonstrated how well we were able to get over these disappointments, firstly with Uwe Alzen's win in Oschersleben and Joachim Winkelhock's pole position and finally with Manuel Reuter's double win at the Nurburgring last time out. The technicians, especially our head designer Donatus Wichelhaus, as well as all the drivers and teams deserve a great deal of praise for their superb input."

The aim for both of the final races on the Grand Prix track at Hockenheim is clear: Manuel Reuter, four-time winner this season and the last champion of the old DTM/ITC era in 1996 (Opel Calibra V6) wants to get the vice-champion position once and for all: "I have a 40 point advantage and need just one more point. Of course I would like to do better, most of all I would like two wins." With two wins, Opel would not just give its many fans a magnificent party as a final celebration of the season, but it would also enable them to catch up with Mercedes. At present the score stands at 8 wins to 6 in favour of the Stuttgart team.

The "Opel Eight" consisting of Uwe Alzen and Joachim Winkelhock (Opel Team Holzer), Manuel Reuter and Michael Bartels (Opel Team Phoenix), Eric Helary and Timo Scheider (Team Opel Holzer), as well as Christian Menzel (Opel Team Irmscher) and Stefano Modena (Opel Euroteam), have recently tested at Hockenheim.

"The results of these tests only have a slight significance since the conditions were constantly changing." says Wichelhaus.

Volker Strycek is convinced that: "We are going to experience an exciting and thrilling DTM final, since each make and every single driver will give it his all once again. After all, success will take them through into winter."