Marcel F?ssler to compete for Opel in 2004 DTM
* Minimum of four new Opel Vectra GTS V8s -- roll-out in February
* In addition to Marcel F?ssler, Opel sign Peter Dumbreck and Manuel Reuter
* Joachim Winkelhock to stay with Opel as "OPC ambassador"
* OPC Team Phoenix preparing two Astra V8 Coup?s for 24-h race at N?rburgring
* Successful Formula 3 engine subjected to further detailed development
* "Ready-to-race" Corsa Sport and Opel Performance Cup to promote club sports
In addition to the DTM, which is clearly the focal point of Opel's 2004 motorsport programme, Opel are determined to repeat the exploits in last year's 24-hour race at the N?rburgring and the Formula 3 Euro Series. To support and promote club sports, Opel Performance Center GmbH (OPC), the organisation responsible for Opel's motorsport commitment, for the first time will be offering a "ready-to-race" Opel Corsa Sport, the car which won the endurance championship at the N?rburgring, as well as sponsoring the Opel Performance Cup with nearly 100,000 euros of prize money.
Minimum of four new Opel Vectra GTS V8s -- roll-out in February
The 2004 DTM will be sporting a brand-new appearance. Instead of banking on coup?s, Audi, Mercedes and Opel, the automotive manufacturers competing in the DTM, are going to switch to four or five-door limos. Following extensive wind tunnel tests, Opel opted for the Vectra GTS five-door fastback saloon. Under the direction of chief design engineer Jean-Claude Martens the DTM version of the Vectra GTS, powered by a 470-hp Opel four-litre V8 engine, is being developed at the OPC DTM Center in Bobingen near Augsburg, established by Opel last year. Suspension components of the Vectra GTS V8, installed in the Astra V8 Coup?, have successfully passed initial tests performed by test driver Marcel Tiemann at the Misano and Vallelunga race tracks in Italy.
The roll-out of the Vectra GTS V8 is scheduled for early February. "We're completely on schedule at the moment. Design and aerodynamics are currently the focal areas of our development work, the preparation of the first vehicle is planned to start in early January," says Opel motorsport director Volker Strycek, who is also OPC's managing director, along with Berndt Wiesenh?tter. "We're going to prepare at least four new Vectra GTS V8s and are determined to fight for victories in the 2004 DTM, as well. The Astra V8 Coup?, too, will be fielded in the series. We're continuing to pursue our objective of competing with a total of seven cars."
In addition to Marcel F?ssler, Opel sign Peter Dumbreck and Manuel Reuter
By signing Marcel F?ssler Opel have secured the services of a young as well as seasoned driver for their DTM lineup. The Swiss, who started his racing career in karting in 1985, and who was the German Formula 3 Vice-champion in 1999 -- powered by Opel -- has been competing in the DTM since 2000. Three times in a row, the 27-year-old Swiss finished the championship in fourth place, moving up to third place in 2003. His track record so far includes three DTM victories.
"I look forward to this new challenge with Opel with great anticipation," said the young family father on signing his contract in R?sselsheim. "With Opel and the Vectra GTS I have good prospects of continuing to fight for top positions in the DTM." Opel motorsport director Volker Strycek is pleased about the new member of his squad: "Marcel F?ssler is one of the best drivers in the DTM. He is highly experienced, sensible as well as being a strong fighter, and he is capable of winning races. We're convinced that Marcel will be a tremendous augmentation of our team."
Peter Dumbreck had renewed his contract with Opel prior to the DTM finale at Hockenheim. The 30-year-old Scot, who had switched to Opel the year before, was the best-placed Opel driver in the 2003 DTM, being second on the podium at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz. "Opel have given my career a new boost. The year with them has whetted my appetite for more, and I'm convinced that the team has a lot more potential," says Peter Dumbreck. The contract of Manuel Reuter, who has been driving for Opel for the past ten years, remains in effect. The 42-year-old German won the1996 FIA International Touring Car Championship (ITC) title in 1996 in a Calibra V6 and was the 2000 DTM Vice-champion in an Astra V8 Coup?.
"We will select the drivers for our 2004 DTM lineup very carefully. We're talking to our previous as well as some new drivers, including some from Formula 1," says Volker Strycek. In two evaluations held in Misano and Vallelunga Opel have scrutinised ten drivers from different motorsport categories. "These evaluations have again been very interesting and conclusive. Last year, we signed three drivers who participated in those appraisals. Now, we're going to evaluate if any of the drivers from this year's evaluations are eligible candidates for the DTM, and if so, who they are."
Joachim Winkelhock to stay with Opel as an "OPC ambassador"
Joachim Winkelhock, who has had a contract with Opel since the DTM comeback in 2000, will remain in the manufacturer's service. After 25 successful years in motor racing, the touring car stalwart from Southern Germany will exchange the cockpit for another function. As an "OPC ambassador" the 43-year old Winkelhock will not merely be handling promotional and PR activities but be actively involved in such areas as technology transfer between racing and production, especially the development and tuning of suspensions used in Opel models, as well as supporting and promoting young talent, such as rookie drivers starting out in the Formula 3 Euro Series with Opel.
"After 25 years of racing, the time has come for me to take off my helmet and quit the job. Most of these 25 years have been good ones, with many peaks but, naturally, valleys, too," says 'Jockel' Winkelhock. "I've never regretted switching to Opel. I'm really happy to be able to continue working with them. It's a new exciting challenge for me, and I'm particularly delighted about being able to contribute my experience."
Opel motorsport director Volker Strycek: "Joachim Winkelhock is one of the most sucessful and popular German racing drivers. And he has given proof of this in the DTM with Opel, too. For the Opel brand and for OPC it is a clear advantage to keep him on board. We'll definitely benefit from his experience and popularity. We're happy to have him stay with us."
Joachim Winkelhock, whose career started in the Renault 5 Cup in 1979, was German Formula 3 Champion in 1988, won three touring car titles as a BMW works driver in Germany, the United Kingdom and Asia as well as clinching victories in the 24-hours of Le Mans, at the N?rburgring and at Spa-Francorchamps. With Opel 'Jockel' captured two pole positions in the DTM as well as one victory and five podium positions.
OPC Team Phoenix preparing two Astra V8 Coup?s for 24-h race at the N?rburgring
After their first overall victory in the 24-hour race at the N?rburgring Opel are again planning to field two modified DTM touring cars in the endurance classic at the legendary 'Nordschleife' in 2004. OPC Team Phoenix based in Meuspath near the N?rburgring are preparing two Astra V8 Coup?s for the 24h-outing. The first "test run" of the 2003 Astra version in the final race of the N?rburgring endurance championship in October saw Volker Strycek and Christian Menzel clinching victory.
"The 2003 DTM version of the Astra V8 Coup? offers better prerequisites for successfully racing the Nordschleife than its predecessor. Of course, the many findings we obtained will be used in the development," says Opel motorsport director Volker Strycek. The development programme includes another endurance test scheduled for January.