Frentzen Leaves Formula One for DTM

Heinz-Harald Frentzen will race for Opel in the German DTM touring car series next year after retiring from Formula One.

Heinz-Harald Frentzen will race for Opel in the German DTM touring car series next year after retiring from Formula One.

The carmaker said in a statement that the 36-year-old German, who won three Grands Prix in a Formula One career spanning a decade, signed a contract on Friday. A veteran of 157 Grands Prix, Frentzen's contract with the Swiss-based Sauber team was not renewed at the end of the 2003 season.

The combative driver won races for Williams and Jordan in 1997 and 1999 respectively, finishing runner-up in the world championship with Williams in 1997.

"I realised immediately that the whole team were highly motivated," Frentzen said after signing his Opel contract. "I think the conditions for winning races are there. The challenge is to contribute to the team's success."

Opel Chief Executive Officer Carl-Peter Forster welcomed the signing, saying: "Heinz-Harald Frentzen is a true fighter and a highly popular racer who is an excellent match for the Opel brand. He has never given up, even when the going got tough, and that's what makes him so special."

Opel are traditional frontrunners in the DTM series, which is very popular in Germany and features another prominent former Formula One driver in Frenchman Jean Alesi, who joined the Mercedes team last year and has a contract to 2005.

Frentzen started his Formula One career with Sauber, making his debut in Brazil in 1994, and returned this season following stints with now-defunct teams Prost and Arrows after being dismissed by Jordan just before the 2001 German Grand Prix.

He has since resolved his differences with Jordan, who reportedly approached him in October over a possible deal which never materialised. Second overall in 1997 with Williams and third in 1999 for Jordan, Frentzen gave Sauber a promising start to the 2003 season by collecting seven points from the first three races.

Sauber and Frentzen then struggled but bounced back with a memorable day in September in Indianapolis, where he finished third to secure his first podium placing since Indianapolis 2000.

Son of a Moenchengladbach undertaker, Frentzen raced with compatriot Michael Schumacher in the 1990 Mercedes sportscar team after beating the future world champion in the previous year's German Formula Three championship.

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