The Nürburgring 24 Hours is not an easy race to break down. At Le Mans the types of cars admitted are not very many, and tightening by tightening they are divided into two broad categories: prototypes and GT. At the Nordschleife it is very different, and you happen to see cars that are absolutely off the mark. Surely this is the case with the Opel Manta which returned to the Nürburgring after a year of absence (2020) making the brand proud today part of the Stellantis group.
This classic car has participated in the most famous German endurance competition since 1994 and has long since taken on iconic status. He crossed the age limit for participation a full 17 years ago, but his fan community managed to get special permission. Even more strange, it must be remembered that the aforementioned Opel Manta was a rally car. In the early nineties Kissling Motorsport, a well-known company specializing in the development of Opel cars, transformed it on behalf of Olaf Beckmann into a racing car for endurance tests. Since then, its beating heart has been an 1800cc Opel four-cylinder engine, whose bore has been modified to reach two liters of displacement.. The cylinder head with 16 valves comes from the Opel Kadett E GS1. The naturally aspirated engine delivers 255 hp.
With a curb weight of just 930 kilograms, sophisticated brake balance and very special features such as the specially designed front axle, Porsche’s rear wing and BMW fenders – which, like the hood and doors, are made of fiber carbon – the racing Opel Manta is a unique example that has covered over 100,000 kilometers on the Ring to date.
During the 24 Hours of 2019, Opel realized the tremendous respect reserved for this car from the paddock. Due to an accident, the race seemed over; however the team experienced the miracle. The mechanics repaired it immediately so that it could make at least one last lap. When the car passed the finish line, all the spectators rose from their seats; the teams in the pits waited on their feet, forming a picket of honor and applauding the car (with the foxtail on the radio antenna) as it passed. “These are moments as exciting as a victory”Recalled Volker Strycek, Opel’s former motorsport manager.
Anyone who thinks Beckmann’s Opel Manta is just a mascot or curiosity about the Ring, in the midst of all the ultra-modern 600 horsepower GT cars, it’s totally out of the way. “We compete seriously competitively, just like everyone else”Strycek points out. “An observer cannot imagine the forces that come into play inside this car. We drive puristly, without power steering. If you are not in top form this Opel Manta does not forgive you for anything, not over these distances“. The car is registered in the special category “SP3” reserved for vehicles with aspirated engine and displacement up to two liters.
In the 2021 edition it went badly: the Mercedes driver Maro Engel, still in the race for the overall victory with his AMG GT3, touched the Opel Manta driven by Jürgen Schulten. Both cars swerved to the left and crashed into the barrier. Visually it didn’t look like there was anything broken on the Manta, but in reality the left wheel suspension would have to be repaired to get back on track. This time it was necessary to add 70 kg to the car in order for it to participate in the “SP3” class – quite a lot for a car whose cornering advantages are based on its lightness; for this reason future participation is in doubt. In the meantime, however, the Manta has once again contributed to writing an interesting page in the racing world.