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F1 fan takes over at Opel Motorsport

ADAM OPEL AG, the German offshoot of American giant General Motors, has had a major shake-up in its competition department management - and a keen F1 fan has been put in charge. That man is German Peter Flohr, who was head of BMW Motorsport in the mid-1980s.

Flohr took over BMW Motorsport from Dieter Stappert in 1985, but was soon forced to pull the company out of Grand Prix racing on the orders of BMW's top management in Munich. Flohr then spearheaded the BMW assault on the World Touring Car Championship in 1987 - the title being won by Italian Roberto Ravaglia. In July 1988, however, Flohr clashed with the management over whether BMW should be involved in F1 and, when he failed to convince the board, he quit the company.

Flohr went to work for the German national sporting authority ADAC, then moved to Fiat Germany and more recently has overseen the Zakspeed team.

Eighteen months after Flohr's departure, BMW decided that he had been right about F1 and secretly commissioned Simtek to design an F1 chassis. That project was halted a year later when BMW came under financial pressure because of strong competition in the car markets from the Japan automakers.

The Munich firm is now booming and we believe that a decision has been made to enter F1 once again. A team of young engineers in Munich - headed by veteran engine designer Paul Rosche - is working on the design of a V10 engine, which is scheduled to be running by the autumn of 1996. It is expected that the unit will be either raced or tested in 1997 with a view to a competitive assault with a top team in 1998.

With German interest in F1 booming thanks to the efforts of Michael Schumacher and Heinz-Harald Frentzen and the involvement of Mercedes-Benz, Flohr will no doubt be soon trying to convince Opel that F1 is the best marketing tool available for a car manufacturer.

At the moment Opel is heavily involved in German Touring Cars with Keke Rosberg's team, and in the British series with its Vauxhall models.

Opel could probably afford its own F1 program, but convincing GM management in Detroit to support such a scheme would be virtually impossible as the automakers in Michigan are very wary of Grand Prix racing since McLaren left Chrysler standing at the altar at the end of 1993.

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