Rendezvous in Provence

It is the home of lavender and perfume, bouillabaisse and ratatouille, amphitheaters and aqueducts. But Provence also has a sporty side to it: In the region between the Rhone Valley, the Mediterranean Sea, and Italy, racing teams as well as car and motorcycle manufacturers test what their gear can do all year round. Lédenon, Le Castellet, Miramas, Grand Sambuc, and Le Luc – the density of test tracks is probably unique throughout the world. In addition to that, there is also Michelin’s Fontange Test Center in Salon-de-Provence, where the new Opel Insignia GSi was presented to the European industry press for two weeks in February. And it took them by storm.


“The media interest
was really huge


“The media interest was really huge,” says Opel manager Konstantin Korostov. “400 journalists from across Europe wanted to experience the car live,” adds his colleague Susanne Hartmann. If a GSi is inviting you to a rendezvous, you can’t simply say no. Because after all, the Opel sports car is “one of the most exciting new cars on the market,” as AutoBild Spain let its readers know. The date starts at the Marseilles airport, where a fleet of GSi models awaits the guests. The 900 IntelliLink GPS system shows the way to Fontange, a test and development center by tire manufacturer Michelin. This is home of a very special part of the Insignia GSi: the Michelin Pilot 4 S sport tyres for an extra portion of grip.


On Site Susanne Hartmann is responsible for the organization of the event.


Coveted The “Ticket to Ride“.

Proven Opel instructor Joachim „Jockel“ Winkelhock.

In Fontange, there are ten Insignia GSi 2.0 Turbos available with 260 horsepower, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive with torque vectoring for fast test laps. The “license to drive a GSi,” the so-called ‘Ticket to Ride,’ is distributed after the press conference during which colleagues from the areas of Marketing, Engineering, and Seating make sure to tease out the robust and precise character of the top-of-the-line sports car. Also present: Volker Strycek, Opel Director for Performance Cars and Motor Sports. No one can describe with more passion how the Insignia GSi was driven tirelessly over the north loop of the Nürburgring and how the team has fine-tuned, improved, re-tested, and made alterations to each detail of the chassis. (See also the interview).


Crazy Fast Swabian
Invited to the Praxis Test


For the practice test, Opel invited a crazy fast Swabian. Opel brand ambassador and race car legend Joachim “Jockel” Winkelhock shows how fast and precise you can chase the Insignia GSi over the track. Of course, the journalists are allowed to drive it themselves. Divided in convoys along with an instructor, they head to the high speed track and the wet handling course. Here, the AutoBild editor is primarily surprised by the FlexRide chassis and the steering, aspects that Volker Strycek’s team put a lot of work into: “This detailed work and meticulousness have paid off, as evidenced by the GSi in the 50 mph slalom.” The Insignia GSi handles itself “impressively well” on wet grounds according to the Dutch online magazine about its drive on the test track.


For record Volker Strycek, Opel Director Performance Cars and Motorsport, explains the benefits of the 2.0-liter BiTurbo diesel.

Three questions for …

Volker Strycek

GSi – behind this abbreviation is a smart person with a lead foot and
a keen sense for interpreting the physical feedback from the road.
The creator of the GSi, Volker Strycek, sits down for an interview.

Where is the Insignia GSi positioned in comparison to the Grand Sport?
GSi is aimed at the connaisseur who places more demands on a car. It’s positioned completely differently from the regular Insignia. We sank our teeth into it because we really wanted to put together a new car – one that had not yet existed in this way. I am confident that this car will be a reference for many competitors.

What are you particularly proud of with regard to the Insignia GSi?
The all-wheel drive in conjunction with true torque vectoring is unrivaled, even in the higher price segment. Even the chassis was a really extreme development work because we had to set up the complete hydraulic tuning from scratch. When it came to steering, we placed a lot of importance on actuation. And since a sports car-oriented driver will be sitting in the GSi, the precision will be appreciated. Speaking of sitting, the AGR-certified Opel performance sport seat, that was specially developed in Rüsselsheim, was highly regarded by the journalists – rightly. It is unique in the market and stands for our inhouse competence when it comes to the topic of seating.

↑ Video: For Ausfahrt TV , Volker Strycek took a seat behind the Insignia GSi’s steering.

The Insignia GSi has 65 less horsepower than the OPC version of its predecessor – will the driver notice this?
Yes, but not the way you might think: We are currently twelve whole seconds faster with the Insignia GSi on the north loop of the Nürburgring than we were with the old Insignia OPC. And the old OPC was really fast. The GSi is 160 kilograms lighter than the OPC version of its predecessor. And you can imagine that for yourself. This is noticeable, of course, in its handling, in its wonderful agility, but even in the overall behavior as well. In addition, we have two great motors: The 260 horsepower turbocharged gasoline engine and a 210 horsepower twin turbo diesel engine with 480 newtonmeters at 1500 RPMs. The responsiveness from the lower RPMs of this motor is unbelievable.


Provençal Rock formations in the Höllental valley and delicious apricot tarte.

And since the GSi is designed for maximum driving pleasure on all roads, the team then heads into the wild. The approximately 31-mile-long test track through the Höllental valley leads across winding and challenging country roads, the smart all-wheel drive continues to show what it can do. The Opel sports car confidently rolls past the rock formations characterized by erosion, which bear an uncanny resemblance to the descriptions in Dante’s Inferno. Handelsblatt comments: “As with the standard Insignia, the Opel chassis delivers an impressive performance, harmonizes with the all-wheel drive, and ensures the best possible grip even on adverse track conditions.”

With the Lightweight Sports Car
Through Ideal


In the “Le Petit Palais d’Aglaé” restaurant in Gordes – which sounds like a scene from a novel by Alexandre Dumas – Provençal delicacies like apricot and apple tartes await the teams at the coffee stop. “We didn’t choose Gordes by coincidence, as it proudly bears the title of the ‘most beautiful village in France’,” says Susanne Hartmann. Likewise, Auto Zeitung believes that Opel should also be proud of the latest addition to its family: “The new Insignia GSi (2018) masterfully performs the demanding balancing act between an everyday vehicle and a sports car, yet it does not overplay its hand while it is outclassing its OPC predecessor on the northern loop of the Nürburgring. GSi is here again!“ The Opel managers, who have made it their job to present an inspiring car in an inspiring region, are satisfied: “I think we satisfied the taste of our guests in every respect,” says Konstantin Korostov. Provence has proven to be an ideal terrain for showing off all the technical details of the lightweight sports car designed with the highest level of efficiency. It all sounds like a rendezvous where the spark has been ignited.

In a nutshell An inspiring car in an inspiring region.

Provence à la carte The test route leads from Marseille to the Michelin Test Center Fontange and from there to the restaurant Le Petit d’Aglaé. Who doesn’t depart immediately, spends a night in the hotel Domaine de Manville. →

March 2018

Text: Maximilian Köhling, Photos: Thorsten Weigl, Opel Archiv