Opel, the principal European brand of General Motors, has announced a long-term plan to return to front-line rallying along similar lines to that taken by Toyota.
To start with it will hold a one-make championship within the ADAC Rallye Masters package for its new city car, the Adam. The Adam Opel Cup cars will be built to FIA R2 specification with front-wheel-drive and a 1.6 litre non-turbo engine and go on sale at just under €25,000.
According to German outlet Rally-Magazin the new car will be presented to the world at the Essen Motor Show on 1 December as it begins to recruit aspiring stars from Germany and neighbouring countries to the programme. ADAC sports president Hermann Tomczyk has already stated that there will be a € 100,000 prize fund behind the series, meanwhile Opel has suggested that the Adam Opel Cup will, like that of Toyota’s Yaris one-make series, ultimately lead the way back towards the top flight.
While the Adam project gets underway, Opel will be developing a competition variant of its next-generation Corsa model to R3 and R5 specification. The new Corsa, which goes on sale in 2014, is expected to take styling cues from the sporty Astra Coupé and present a sporty alternative in the crowded supermini sector.
Opel’s competition department in Rüsselsheim has been tasked with getting the R3 specification Corsa (front wheel drive with a 1.6-litre turbo), ready for 2014 and the 1.6-litre 4WD R5 a year later. If this programme is achieved, the plan is to aim for a full WRC programme starting in 2016.
Dr. Thomas Sedran, Deputy Managing Director, Adam Opel AG, was quoted as saying: “These new motorsport activities play in the strategic realignment of the company an important role, they are a fundamental element in our brand profile.”
Opel was a stalwart of the WRC’s first decade, with several of its models from the sporty Kadett and Manta to the executive Kommodore being seen in action through the 1970s. It was with the mid-range Ascona that it found the most success, however, and in 1982 the German ace Walter Röhrl won a hard-fought title battle to beat the Audi Quattro of Michèle Mouton to the WRC drivers’ title. The Ascona’s success was followed by that of the Manta 400, which did not trouble the 4WD giants of the WRC but achieved honours in national and regional competitions worldwide.
Since the 1980s, Opel has not enjoyed a particularly fruitful time in motor sport. It dropped its plans for a Group A assault on the WRC with the Calibra coupé in the early 1990s in favour of contesting the German Touring Car CHampionship and FIA International Touring Car Championship but despite the likes of former Formula One world champion Keke Rosberg at the wheel it never overcame the might of Mercedes-Benz or Audi.
A Super 1600 version of the second-generation Corsa was found in competition at the turn of the century, followed by a Super 2000 rally version of the third-generation car that was built by MSV that competed in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge. Neither of these programmes achieved stirring success, and Opel has suffered heavily in the contraction of European car sales in recent years.
It would be great to see a return to form for the famous white and yellow colours of Opel at the top level of competition… but three years is a long time in the European automotive industry!