The second outing of the Opel Astra V8 Coupé at the Nürburgring-Nordschleife ended with a considerable success. Driving all on his own, Opel motorsport director Volker Strycek finished fourth overall with the 462 hp strong DTM touring car in the field of 160 participating teams. "I am totally exhausted, but also very happy", said a worn-out Volker Strycek after crossing the finish line of the four hour race. "After our first test in July, in which we only did four laps, we now wanted to complete the entire race distance, and so we did, without any problems."
Volker Strycek drove the yellow-blue V8 Coupé that was raced by Manuel Reuter in the DTM. The car was entered by the Opel Team Phoenix, located in the industrial zone at the Nürburgring, with team principal Ernst Moser, team manager Dirk Theimann and vehicle engineer Jürgen Jungklaus. Phoenix had prepared the DTM-Astra accordingly for this test effort. For instance, a tank system was fitted into the car and the suspension was adapted to meet the requirements of the Nordschleife. "The spring rates were significantly extended and the settings of the shock absorbers were changed accordingly. The ground clearance was increased from 50 to 65 millimetres, which hardly shows from the outside, but still means a notable reduction of the aerodynamic efficiency", says Ernst Moser.
After the first test on Friday afternoon, set-up of the DTM-car was changed significantly once again, as the autumn weather in the Eifel turned out to be changing a lot, with heavy rain showers as if it was crying because the season had come to an end. Nevertheless, the 1984 DTM-champion succeeded in claiming pole position with a lap time of 10.50.594 minutes, four seconds clear of the Porsche-team Tiemann/Manthey/Kern.
But pole-position was already lost before the race was started. "During the warm-up lap, the course car swirled up all the leafs that had fallen after practice because of the wind. I collected a lot of leafs that all amassed in front of the radiator. That made the water temperature raise to well over 100 degrees, so that I immediately steered into the pit lane", says Strycek, who started into the race with a notable delay after the leafs had been removed. However, Strycek could save a tyre change because the Opel-crew had been one of the very few teams to opt for rain tyres before the start, in spite of the fact that the track got drier and drier at that time, but then at the start, a rain shower soaked the Nordschleife. "But also with rain tyres, it was really difficult, conditions were extreme. I drove very cautiously to avoid spinning off the track."
After the fifth lap, the first tank stop was on. "The DTM-tank has a capacity of just a little bit over 66 litres", Dr. Ulrich Pfisterer, head of the DTM project at the Opel Performance Center (OPC) explained this early stop. With the first data, the tank interval then was extended to six laps. "More wasn't possible", says Dr. Pfisterer. As team principal Ernst Moser had clearly noticed that at that time, teams with slick tyres were lapping significantly quicker than the ones with rain tyres, the rain tyres were replaced by slicks during the second tank stop. "Because of the changing conditions, I actually wanted to continue with rain tyres, but I trusted Ernst Moser", says Strycek, who then was almost one minute faster right away. Meanwhile, the quick coupe was running in fourth place. It could even have been third place overall in the end, but the small DTM-tank forced the V8 Coupé back into the pits for a fourth pit stop just before the final lap, even though this only was a "splash & dash", with only a few litres being put in.
"We are very satisfied as in fact, everything has been running very well", says Volker Strycek. "Technology has been working in a great way. We still have to work on the set-up, although the changes we made had a positive effect. But the Nordschleife is known to be very demanding and requires a very special adaptation of the cars. It has to be our goal that the car is as easy as possible to drive and is really uncritical at crests and jumps. With the experience that we have gained today, we should be able to achieve that."
Opel motorsport director Volker Strycek: "I am convinced that one can race in the 24-hour race with the Opel Astra V8 Coupé." However, it has not yet been decided whether Opel will compete in the endurance classic at the 'Ring in 2003. This also depends on the class in which the car has to run, especially depending on the weight limit. Dr. Pfisterer adds: "With a 66 litre tank, you certainly won't have to race, as it will make you chanceless right away."