If only news stories like this would keep coming! Opel just confirmed their intention to step up brand’s involvement in motor sports, namely rallying and circuit racing. And while we don’t care much about round-roundy boys (at least not until Sebastien Loeb starts competing in WTCC), the bit about rallying caught our attention. Opel was once very big name in rallying, especially in Europe, and the exploits of the likes of Ari Vatanen (dear god moment from Isle of Man, anyone) or Walter Röhrl are legendary. Even though Opel’s plans do not include immediate return to World Rally Championship scene, there is hope, and lots of it.
Apparently German company will initially set up one make cup competition featuring rally version of their latest road car, Adam. Special bonuses and tempting prizes, some of which will be aimed at younger drivers exclusively, should help boost the popularity of Adam among it’s target audience, youngsters. And if rally gains new followers, be it fans or drivers alike, we all benefit. Later on Opel will develop rally edition of next generation Corsa, which will then take over the reins from Adam as brands main rally contender.
It’s hard to say if Opel’s plans include WRC or WRC-2 championships, or indeed any of the “lesser” classes, and this is probably still subject of debate and will depend how new promoter scheme and new WRC teams take off next year. But whenever major manufacturer decides to join rallying community and especially if it plans to support younger drivers, we can celebrate.
Offical release below.
Opel is returning to motor racing in the form of an internationally oriented rally program with the new Opel ADAM and a circuit for the new Astra OPC that focusses on Germany. “These new motorsports activities play an important role in the strategic re-alignment of the company; they are a fundamental element of our brand profile,” says Dr. Thomas Sedran, Opel’s Deputy CEO. Especially in grassroots, popular sports, the Ruesselsheim carmaker can look back on a long and successful tradition. The aim of the company is to create a new competition that appeals to customers which is both technically sophisticated and reasonably priced, while at the same time providing a platform for young ambitious drivers to continuously develop their talent.
Rally: Professional talent development in cooperation with the ADAC
With its commitment to rally sports, Opel has the European stage now in its sights. After all, beyond the core market of Germany, there is a strong interest in rallying in all of the key European markets of the brand. Moreover, the World Motor Sport Authority FIA also has fixed regulations that provide entry points and advancement opportunities for young drivers. A rally cup version of the new Opel ADAM, which has been closely specified to FIA R2 standards, will be used in the 2013 season. As part of the “ADAC Rally Masters” race series these customer cars will compete in a branded cup (” ADAC Opel Rally Cup “). The allure of the competition is also increased by the fact that the most successful drivers can expect to win cash prizes. In addition, there is a special “junior rally” points system for drivers younger than 27 years. The overall winner of a set of final trials will get special coaching in the next season.
As a strong partner Opel was able to gain an ally in the ADAC that shares an almost identical vision for new talent development. Above all, the ADAC uses its organizational and motorsport infrastructure for the common project. Opel’s strategy has been devised to last initially until 2016. After that a modular development program has been envisaged where talented rally drivers can graduate from the “ADAC Opel Rally Cup” to an international level. In the first two of four stages, the ADAM will be employed. In stages three and four the next generation Opel Corsa is expected to be the rally vehicle.
Circuit: “Astra OPC Cup” part of the VLN endurance championships
The automotive element of Opel’s involvement on the circuit is the new Astra OPC. It is being made available from the 2013 season onwards as a racing version for customer sports. The Cup cars are engineered to match the “VLN Endurance Championship” standards which are the most popular grass roots racing series in Europe. The cars will also compete in a brand trophy in their own class (“Astra OPC Cup”). The highlight of the season is expected to be a 24-hour race on the Nuerburgring race track.
An especially attractive benefits package is being offered for private competitors, which is not limited to top performance and affordable cutting edge racing technology. In addition to the rally project, there is a pot of money with attractive cash prizes. Additionally, customers benefit from competitively priced spare parts as well as technical and organizational support on and off the race track.
Motor sports history: Opel creates milestones
The most succesful era of the company’s rally history began in the mid-seventies. It was quite literally “driven” by the German driver, Walter Roehrl, one of the all-time top rally pilots. During his time with Opel, he and his Ascona A won the European championship title in 1974 and again in with the Ascona B in 1979. The crowning glory of the Regensburg man’s era was his world championship title in 1982. He achieved this with his legendary Ascona 400. Opel is just as at home on the racing circuit. In grass root touring cars competitions, the brand with the famous lightening logo achieved countless successes on its home turf, the northern loop of the Nuerburgring race track. From 1993 onwards Manuel Reuter became a favorite with the fan community thanks to his Calibra V6 that competed professionally. He first drove it in the DTM competition and eventually won a title in the subsequent ITC series. Further highlights included the car makers’ championship of the DTM/ITC in 1998 in the STW series with the help of his Vectra. Overall victory in the 24-hour Nuerburgring race 2003 was achieved with an Astra V8 coupe.