Dec 11, 2014
Rüsselsheim. At Opel exceptional athletes receive an abbreviation – OPC. Exactly 15 years ago, the first production model from the Opel Performance Center hit the roads. Since that day, Opel has combined its knowhow for motorsport outings with the development of performance cars for the road, guaranteeing a regular technology transfer between the world of motorsports and serial production.
“The Opel Performance Center provides our performance-hungry clients with vehicles that are irresistibly dynamic, have a sporty look and are very different from the large production models, without making any comprises on everyday usability. Our OPC models stand for outstanding performance and pure passion,” explained Opel Group CEO Dr. Karl-Thomas Neumann.
“An OPC model must immediately be recognizable as such,” said Mark Adams, Opel’s Vice President for Design. The Astra OPC, for example, is keen to display its perfectly toned body with specially sculpted front and rear bumpers, side skirts, an aerodynamic roof spoiler and two fully integrated exhaust tail pipes in a trapezoid shape ensuring it has the specific OPC appearance. Moreover, for the Insignia OPC the designers created an archaic sabertooth appearance for the voluminous air intakes. All OPC models follow the requirements set out by Mark Adams. “Every detail and every line must convey the performance of the vehicle.”
When the Astra G replaced the Astra F in 1998, the Opel bestseller increased quality, efficiency and spaciousness but Opel motorsport legend and OPC co-founder Volker Strycek remembers a flaw. “The car was a long way away from being suitable for motorsports. As there were no plans for a GSI version, both a competitive powertrain and a corresponding chassis were missing. So we sat down – inside only one year we developed and tested our debut model, the Opel Astra OPC 1,” explained Strycek. Numerous Opel OPC models followed and could hit the normal roads, in some cases immediately after setting new lap records on the Nürburgring.
Currently, the sporting OPC flagship is the 239 kW/325 hp Insignia OPC but the Astra OPC with 206 kW/280 hp is hot on its heels: With its compact dimensions and a more radical overall set-up the powerful Astra is almost as fast as its big brother is.
Based on the 100 kW/136 hp, 2.0-liter ECOTEC, the newly created OPC team built a free-revving and responsive engine that was completely different to the frugal base model. The engine befits from forged pistons, sharper camshafts, larger intake and exhaust channels along with an exhaust manifold system and optimized engine management, thus resulting in 118 kW/160 hp. An additional oil cooler and an adapted coolant thermostat ensured the correct temperature in every situation.
The chassis obviously also needed some refinement to match the increased performance of the engine, with Opel wanting the performance to be reflected in the drive characteristics and the handling. The car’s center of gravity was lowered by two centimeters, Bilstein dampers, larger brake discs behind 17-inch BBS rims, newly designed wishbones and a more direct steering were all incorporated. Furthermore, the Opel OPC stood out with an aerodynamics package and Recaro bucket seats. To this day, the Astra G OPC remains a very popular racing car that continues to win in the 2.0-liter naturally aspirated engine class.
Volker Strycek was responsible for 2,500 Sport-Astra, necessary for homologation, produced in series. However, the enthusiasm was much bigger. Even before hitting the market the motorsport fans went mad for the Astra OPC. As a result, the number was increased to 3,000 and these had sold out after only four months.
The confidence of the OPC crew grew with the sporting and commercial success and the next project targeted something very special. The team set its sights on making the fastest compact van in the world. The debut of the Zafira OPC also saw the introduction of turbocharging. From this moment on, all further models created in the Opel Performance Center were also equipped with the efficient turbo technology.
The performance of the 2.0-liter engines gradually grew from 141kW/192 hp in the first generation Zafira OPC to 147 kW/200 hp in the second generation Astra OPC, and then from 176 kW/240 hp to the 206 kW/280 hp available in the current Opel Astra OPC. The torque also grew with the performance. The first generation 2.0liter turbo engine had 250 Nm whereas the latest has a breathtaking 400 Nm.
The OPC models have proven just how good they are on an annual basis and they regularly break the lap record on the 20.8 kilometer long Nürburgring-Nordschleife. The second generation Astra OPC set a new class record of 8:35:94 minutes in 2005. The following year the Zafira OPC set a new record for compact vans (8:54:38 minutes) which is still valid today. And the Corsa OPC set new standards in the small car segment in 2007, when a pure serial-production car completed the course in just 8:47:99 minutes.
In addition to the record-breaking runs, all OPC vehicles ‘suffer’ vigorous endurance tests through the “Green hell”, which is classed as the most demanding racetrack in the world. The legendary Nordschleife is traditional Opel territory. The cars with the Blitz have been put through extreme tests there since the 1960s. Currently, Opel has a cooperation agreement with Nürburgring Ltd and furthermore established its own test center in the direct vicinity of the course as early as 2006.
To date the Rüsselsheim-based carmaker has produced two special “Nürburgring” editions, the Astra OPC in 2008 and the Corsa OPC in 2011. The Astra H in the special racing trim had the same performance as the Astra OPC but a special, spectacular livery. In 2011, the Nürburgring Edition Corsa OPC boasted an additional 14 kW/18 hp for a total of 210 hp delivered by its 1.6 turbo engine and a limited slip differential compared to the “normal” Corsa OPC which made it a more radical and efficient rocket.
The Astra OPC has been the top-level model in the compact class since the summer of 2012. A two-litre turbo with 206 kW/280 hp and 400 Nm torque give it outstanding propulsion. The athletic Astra accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in six seconds flat and has a top speed of 250 km/h – faster than any previous Astra. It was fine-tuned on the Nürburgring Nordschleife. Its HiPerStrut (High Performance Strut) front suspension and mechanical limited slip differential guarantee outstanding road holding and best possible traction when accelerating out of tight corners, even in the wet. Elsewhere, OPC drivers can rely on a Brembo high performance brake system if they need to reduce speed quickly.
The Insignia OPC is the flagship. Its turbocharged 2.8-liter V6 engine produces 239 kW/325 hp and sends 435 Nm torque to all four wheels. In order to guarantee that the power reaches the road in the best possible way, the OPC team developed an all-wheel drive based on the German Touring Car Championship experiences gathered with the Calibra (International Touring Car Championship winner in 1996). With this powerful engine at its disposal, the Insignia OPC accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in six seconds (Sports Tourer 6.3 seconds) and achieves a maximum, electronically limited speed of 250 km/h. However, the Insignia can go even faster. The manual Unlimited-Version reaches up to 270 km/h (Sports Tourer 265 km/h).
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