So could we see an Insignia in the DTM, Japan GT Championship and US Le mans...............
The withdrawal of Opel from The German Touring Car Series (DTM) at the end of 2005 threw the series into a state of panic as it left just two manufacturers in the category. However, the new regulations which have been introduced subsequently and the categories global expansion may well have tempted Opel back for another attempt on the championship.
The New Improved DTM
Back in 2005 Opel felt that DTM had become quite stale and decided that it did not serve any purpose for their long term goals. However, the sports organisers (ITR) have introduced a new set of regulations which are aimed at making the category more relevant to road car developments and other motorsport categories. The primary purpose of these changes is to encourage new manufacturers to enter the sport.
This strategy appears to have worked, with BMW announcing that it will return to the category in 2012. The German manufacturer claimed that the new regulations allowed them to develop a single racing car which would be eligible to compete in the Japanese GT category, American Le Man series and the DTM. The development of such a machine would therefore provide them with a much greater return on their initial investment when the additional exposure is considered despite the research and development costs being the same as it would have been to create a single DTM race car in the past.
The Five Year Project
The owners of Opel, General Motors, value the brand highly and have planned an $11 billion investment package over the next five years to help transform Opel’s fortunes. It is believed that a big part of this budget will go towards the development of the brand which could well be done using motorsport programmes such as DTM. As has been noted by BMW, the new technical regulations which have been introduced into the DTM have put the category in line with at least three other motorsport categories which means that the basic machine will be a much more worthwhile investment for the company. If General Motors is looking to boost the Opel brand through motor sport, this would therefore be the cheapest and easiest way of doing so.
Planning for Success
Opel’s last foray into DTM can not be considered to have been a successful one, with the manufacturer failing to pick up a single victory in the category and being considered the perennial underdog. General Motors is more than aware that following the same path would ultimately damage the brand and is keen to ensure that if it does return to DTM, it will do so with a package capable of immediately challenging for the championship.
It has been strongly rumoured that Opel approached the Williams Formula One team to enquire about the possibility of Williams running Opel’s DTM project. Williams has a history of Touring Car involvement having successfully collaborated with Renault to become a championship winning force in the British Touring Car Championship in the late 1990s. The British team has also been extending its businesses interest in recent years in an attempt to ensure that they are capable of functioning independently without relying so heavily on Formula One Sponsorship. Williams CEO Adam Parr was cagey about the subject when discussing it recently, denying that a deal had been reached but conceded “Personally, I would love to do it. I would be very interested”. It is believed that Opel will use the Insignia model upon its return as it believes that the aerodynamic outline will be a better basis for creating a successful touring car than the Astra model.
On the driver front, the company has a strong relationship with Fabrizio Giovanardi on the back of their domination of the British Touring Car Championship in the middle part of the last decade with the Italian legend. Meanwhile, Williams has tested a number of young drivers with F1 aspirations in recent years, including Sam Bird, Andy Soucek and Dean Stoneman. DTM has recently proven itself to be a development ground for talented young drivers such as these, who are without a sufficient budget to enable them to make the final leap into F1 from the junior formulae. This was the path taken by the 2010 DTM champion Paul Di Resta who will make his F1 debut for Force India in Australia. Surely any of these drivers would be serious contenders if they were behind the wheel of a Williams Opel. A slightly move unlikely idea would be for Nigel Mansell to return to Williams to lead their DTM assault. The 1992 F1 World Champion has appeared pretty restless lately with his Le Mans entry and appearance in car insurance commercials, and would surely be interested if the money was right. Now that would be fascinating.