2005 will be the last season that Opel competes in the DTM, as parent company General Motors decided to withdraw the marque after this year. However, the team is not letting that detract from the work ahead and is hoping that with a good season they may be able to reverse the decision and stay in competition in the future.
The squad has been pared down to just four cars for 2005, with drivers Marcel F?ssler, Manuel Reuter, Laurent Aiello and Heinz-Harald Frentzen. Speaking to Motorsport.com, F?ssler pondered Opel's future. "It's very difficult," he said. "All the time it's a question of money and at the moment the manufacturer is perhaps not so good financially."
"The board has to ask 'does DTM help us or not?' The only thing we can do is try and give good results, to have a good season, but it's not our decision. It's the decision of the board but we will not give up; the whole team is working hard to have a good year and maybe change their minds and continue in 2006."
Opel was testing at Jerez this week with one new 2005 spec car as well as the Vectra that was used last year. F?ssler's work focused on developing the car: "We were trying out mechanical grip levels, different configurations, going soft, going hard -- you try to play with everything just to see what might work and what doesn't."
As for how Opel will stand up to Mercedes and Audi this year, it's not something F?ssler is willing to predict. "It will be difficult with only four cars," he conceded. "We try and do as much work as possible to catch Mercedes and Audi but it's impossible to say until we're actually at the first race."
"Last year, in spring testing, we thought we were not so bad at the ITR tests (the official test sessions where all three manufacturers take part). We usually had an Opel at the front but when the season started we were not so close as we thought. So I don't like to say what might happen."
A new manufacturer is due to join the DTM this year but so far it has not been revealed who it is. It would seem that any new entrant would have to be on the test track by now but there have been no reports, official or otherwise. "I don't know anything more than anyone else," F?ssler said.
"I hear rumours but nobody seems to know what is happening. I can't imagine a new manufacturer without them testing -- maybe it's secret, maybe they are doing a really good job of hiding it! But it would be good for the DTM to have a fourth manufacturer involved."
The calendar is 11 races long in 2005, including street races in Moscow and France, and F?ssler thinks it's good that the series is branching out. "It's nice to have more races; I'd like to have even more, maybe 12 or 14. The street races will make it more interesting, for us drivers and for the fans."
As for himself, F?ssler is ready for the new season. "Of course, I am looking forward to it, otherwise what's the point of being there! I will try as much as possible to get good results and the team will be pushing hard to have a good season and perhaps change the decision to not race (after 2005). We just need a good car and perhaps a little luck."