Now the 2005 season is over thoughts are already turning to next year but for one manufacturer there will be no more DTM. Parent company General Motors (GM) made the decision to withdraw Opel at the end of this season so one of the top, if not...
Now the 2005 season is over thoughts are already turning to next year but for one manufacturer there will be no more DTM. Parent company General Motors (GM) made the decision to withdraw Opel at the end of this season so one of the top, if not the top, touring car series currently only has two manufacturers on board.
Unfortunately Opel's season was not good enough for GM to keep the marque in competition next year. Mercedes and Audi were streets ahead of Opel, which finished with only a quarter of the points of its rivals. There were no wins for Opel and just two podium finishes, both Heinz-Harald Frentzen, third at Brno and Zandvoort.
Obviously the results did not encourage GM to stay involved. "The season was not what we expected," Opel driver Marcel F?ssler told Motorsport.com. "We thought we would be closer to the other manufacturers but even with the weight advantage we weren't really good enough."
"I think maybe one problem was that the car was too conservative, although I couldn't say for certain that it was more one thing than another. But it was difficult to improve, to catch up with the other manufacturers."
So GM was ready to close the doors on the Opel garages and will not release the cars to race as privateers. "If we had some wins maybe it would be different," said F?ssler. "They'd maybe think that after five years it would be stupid to let it go if there was some success, but seeing as we weren't winning it wasn't worth them carrying on."
So what does this mean for the DTM? Will a new entrant come along or will the series continue with just Mercedes and Audi making up the numbers? "Perhaps it would not be so good with just two manufacturers," F?ssler pondered. "But then again if they put on a good show it could work."
"With more manufacturers you would think it would be better but also it could just spread the grid out more -- Mercedes and Audi at the front, say, then everyone else behind. If the same ones won all the time the show wouldn't be so good, it could be a bit boring."
And what of F?ssler himself, what does the future hold? He had a good success rate in the DTM when he raced for Mercedes. In his four years for the marque, from 2000 to 2003, he finished fourth in the standings three times and third when he was a title challenger in his last season.
However, come 2004, with new drivers and some big names coming in to the series, F?ssler would not necessarily get to pilot one of the new chassis that Mercedes fields each season. Rather than the possibility of being stuck with a year-old car, Marcel took the chance and moved to Opel.
It didn't work out as well as he hoped, obviously, as Opel just couldn't compete on the same level as its rivals. F?ssler's main goal is to stay in the DTM. "At the moment I don't know," he said of next year. "I want to stay but it's really difficult. The problem is there's so many good drivers on the market and so few seats, but I hope I get the chance."
"It's possible I could go back to Mercedes. I left because there was no guarantee I would drive a new car but there were no hard feelings, we have a good relationship. But it's too soon to say about anything at the moment, we are just looking at our options and talking to people."
There were rumours at Hockenheim that Alfa Romeo could join next season but so far it's only speculation. How the series would fare with only two manufacturers is uncertain, as is the future of many drivers. One can only hope that the situation will be satisfactorily resolved and drivers such as F?ssler, who deserve a seat, get the chance to race on.