Following the official launch of its beautiful Opel Astra V8 Coupe last week, Team Petronas Syntium Opel gets down to serious business when the car makes its debut in round two of the WesBank V8 Championship at Killarney in Cape Town this weekend...
Following the official launch of its beautiful Opel Astra V8 Coupe last week, Team Petronas Syntium Opel gets down to serious business when the car makes its debut in round two of the WesBank V8 Championship at Killarney in Cape Town this weekend (7 April).
The V8 Coupe caused a stir at the launch with its stunningly aggressive, German Touring Car (DTM) inspired looks, which are set to lift the WesBank series onto a new level of awareness among race fans.
Despite the good looks, however, the team is under no illusion as to how difficult the challenge of getting the 370 kW Chevrolet V8-engined spaceframe chassis Astra on the pace will be. With its most recent motorsport participation having been in 2.0-litre front-wheel drive touring cars, the WesBank V8 cars are totally different in nature to what the team is familiar with, which will take the team engineers and drivers some time to get used to.
Opel Astra V8. Photo: Team Petronas
"Our team of engineers has been working flat out for the past two months to get the cars built and ready to race in Cape Town," says Opel Motorsport manager, Mike Carroll. "We would have liked to have had the time to conduct some testing prior to making our race debut, but considering the circumstances it is incredible that we are even making the race at all. Were it not for the dedication of my team, we surely would not have made the race.
"We are well aware of the huge task that lies ahead of us in getting our Astra V8 Coupes into race winning form. The rules of the series are designed to ensure close competition, and there are a number of teams with a lot more experience of working within the regulations than ourselves, so it will take time for us to catch up and be competitive.
"Nevertheless, we are confident that we have the team and drivers to develop the cars into a competitive package during the year, and are looking to be in a race winning position sooner rather than later. However, for this weekend, we are hoping for the cars to run reliably and any finish in the top six would be a superb result," he concludes.
For Team Petronas Syntium Opel drivers Deon Joubert and Shaun Watson-Smith, it has been a long wait to get behind the wheel of their new mounts.
"I can't wait to get going in the new Astra V8 Coupe," explains Joubert, who is a previous WesBank champion and has experience of powerful rear-wheel drive race cars. "If looks alone were a measure of performance, I am sure that the Astra would be a winner out the box, but we all know that motorsport is more complex than that.
"Without having had the opportunity to test the car, we have a lot of work to do in developing it into a competitive machine, but with the best team in the country behind us I am sure that we are going to be in the thick of the action in a very short space of time," he says.
Despite having multiple national championship titles behind his name, for Watson-Smith the first few races of the year are going to be a steep learning curve as his entire career so far has been behind the wheel of front-wheel drive cars.
"I have a lot of learning to do with this type of car," says Watson-Smith. "A big rear-wheel drive car is a lot different to the front-wheel drive cars that I am used to, but I will be able to call on Deon's experience of these cars for assistance. It is definitely a step up from touring cars, and I can't wait to get the Astra competitive and be in a position to win races again.
"Although I have not driven the V8 Coupe yet, my first experience of this type of car at Kyalami in February was exciting, as the cars feel more like prototype sports racers than a saloon car. They are proper, powerful racing cars and you can't get more exciting than that!"