Former BTCC champion Alain Menu will move over to the DTM for 2001, but with Opel not Mercedes after a test with the Three-Pointed Star did not work out as planned.

When that test didn?t earn the Swiss driver a place, Opel wasted no time in snapping up the front-wheel drive expert to become what many expect to be a title contender in the rear-wheel drive V8 Coupe.

Menu, who has won the British Touring Car Championship twice, has been signed to drive one of just four 2001-spec cars this season, thereby moving right into the top star ranking occupied by Opel?s undisputed number one Manuel Reuter, former BTCC rival Joachim Winkelhock and rookie Timo Scheider.

While the latter three cars will all be entered by Opel?s number one team Holzer Motorsport, however, Menu?s V8 Coupe will be prepared by the Italo-German Euroteam - based in Arese near Milano, but having a technical affiliate near Munich and an all-new handling office in Tuebingen where team manager Rolf Haering works. The Euroteam has added 20 people to its staff in order to cope with the growing task in DTM. It had only one car last season, for Stefano Modena, but will become a two-car-team now, with Hubert Haupt joining in a 2000 spec machine.

Menu is the clear number one within the Euroteam - even though his experience in rear-wheel drive cars is rather limited, while Haupt has spent the last year driving in the FIA GT Championship, as well as the ALMS, and winning the FIA race at the rain-soaked EuroSpeedway Lausitz, along with Wolfgang Kaufmann, in a Porsche 911 GT2.

Menu will do his best to close that gap of experience to his team mate. After Hockenheim, he went on to test the Opel in Barcelona, where he improved in impressive steps from his first attempts. And he will also be driving a Ferrari F50 entered by Prodrive in the FIA GT Championship at those races which do not clash with the DTM weekends to gain even more experience with rear-wheel drive cars.

He is not a complete rookie, however, having drove a BMW M3 for the Linder team at the Hockenheim and Singen races back in 1991.

The first cut from the 2001 version was a deep one, however, for, when Menu tested his new car for the first time at Hockenheim, he crashed after just seven laps in damp conditions, ripping the front suspension to pieces.having been overwhelmed by the huge amount torque in cold conditions.

The 37-year-old from Geneva had every reason to remain upbeat, though, as he did not damage his race car, which had not been delivered at the time of the crash. The Swiss driver?s new car is the last in line of all that are currently under construction at Opel.