Opel Test Center Rodgau-Dudenhofen: Where Records are Born
- More than 70 kilometres of test tracks: Obligatory torture tour for all Opel models
- Sensation in 1972: Diesel GT set two world and 18 international records
- High performance in 2003: Eco Speedster set 17 international records
- With muscle power: Recumbent bicycle records in 1999, 2002, 2004 and 2010
- #WeBelieve: New 24-hour world record attempt by Nici Walde in a velomobile
Rüsselsheim. More than 70 kilometres of test tracks including a high-speed circuit, skid pads, airbag laboratory and climate chamber – Nicola "Nici" Walde now takes to the track where all Opel vehicles are normally put through their paces. The 44-year-old extreme athlete wants to ride more than 1,219 kilometres in her velomobile on the 4.8-kilometre long circuit at the Opel Test Center Rodgau-Dudenhofen with pure muscle power – and thus break the 24-hour HPV world record (Human Powered Vehicles e.V.). Never before has a person covered a greater distance powered solely by their own physical strength in just one day – both Nici Walde and the Opel Test Center would make history with this. A look back at some of the highlights of the Opel Test Center, which opened in 1966, shows that she is in the right place for this in Dudenhofen. Not only have all Opel models completed a total of more than 200 million test kilometres there on their way to series production, the center is also a birthplace of world records – with and without engine power.
“Only flying is nicer” – especially in the 1972 Diesel GT
In June 1972, Opel astounded the public with an exciting diesel project. With an aerodynamically optimised GT body, the Diesel GT set two world and eighteen international records for diesel vehicles at the Opel Test Center Dudenhofen.
From the outside, the modified GT could hardly be recognised as such. It got an even flatter, more aerodynamically sophisticated and lighter body for the record drives. While add-on parts such as door handles, rear-view mirrors and bumpers were left off, the prototype featured a Plexiglass dome on the driver's side. Under the bonnet, the 2.1-litre diesel engine provided power and thanks to the turbocharger, it produced what was at the time an astonishing 95 hp. For two days and three nights, the prototype was raced along the fast track by a team of racing drivers. In the process, the Diesel GT set one record after another – over 10 kilometres, 100 kilometres, 500 kilometres, 1,000 kilometres... The vehicle covered the distance of 10,000 kilometres in just about 52 hours – with an average speed of an astonishing 190.88 km/h. The fastest clocked speed over 1,000 metres with a flying start was even higher: 197 km/h! This was a sensational performance for a diesel 46 years ago.
Diesel records, number two – the Opel Eco Speedster raced along the track
July 27, 2003 will also go down in Opel's history as a special day. Because at exactly 12:44 p.m. the record drives with the Opel Eco Speedster on the high-speed track in Rodgau-Dudenhofen came to a successful end. The Eco Speedster set 17 international records for special cars with supercharged diesel engines within 24 hours.
The powertrain was trimmed for high performance for the record drives with the diesel prototype. Power was delivered by an 82 kW/112 hp version of the world's smallest 1.3-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, which was also offered for the Opel Agila and Opel Corsa at the time (with 51 kW/70 hp). Opel engineers also explored the limits of technology with regard to aerodynamics and weight. The two-seat vehicle based on the production Speedster had a carbon fibre body, weighed in at only 600 kilogrammes and boasted a sensational drag coefficient of Cd = 0.20. The average speed of the Eco Speedster’s fastest lap during the 24 hours was an impressive 256.269 km/h. It reached a top speed of 256.739 km/h over one kilometre with a flying start. The swift Speedster also lived up to the "Eco" in its name: with consumption of 2.54 litres of diesel per 100 kilometres, it also put in a top performance.
From engine to muscle power – record rides in recumbent bikes
But it’s not just four-wheel vehicles that set records at the Opel Test Center Rodgau-Dudenhofen. As the facility is surrounded by woods that protect it from wind, its high-speed circuit offers ideal conditions for cycling record attempts. And these have already succeeded here several times.
In August 1999, cyclist Lars Teutenberg took to the starting line with his "White Hawk" recumbent bicycle with full fairing. The aerodynamically optimised bike was just 90 centimetres high and only 46 centimetres wide with a carbon fibre fairing and frame. The Cologne native hit the track with his 18.5 kilogramme bicycle in ideal weather conditions with temperatures around 20 degrees Celsius. During his ride he accelerated to almost 90 km/h – and was the first person to cover more than 80 kilometres in one hour using his own muscle power. But that wasn’t enough for the ambitious cyclist: in the on-going rivalry with Canadian Sam Whittingham, Teutenberg improved his own world record to 82.6 kilometres in 60 minutes on July 27, 2002. Exactly two years and four days later, on July 31, 2004, Sam Whittingham again took the lead – also in Dudenhofen. In the same time span, the Canadian covered a further 1.62 kilometres on the circuit and raised the bar to 84.22 kilometres per hour.
Another world record in recumbent bikes was set by the successful Trondheim-Oslo rider Axel Fehlau in 2010. On October 9, he covered 426.8 kilometres in six hours at the Opel Test Center on his "Speedhawk", beating the old record by more than 50 kilometres. He thus increased the average speed from the previous 65 km/h to over 71 km/h.
With her 24-hour HPV world record attempt, Nici Walde now opens a new chapter in record rides in Dudenhofen and aims to break the existing record for women and men. Opel wishes her good luck and says: #WeBelieve in you!
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