INDIANAPOLIS - Known for their charismatic designs andsuperior performance, the pack-leading pace cars share a special placein Indianapolis 500 lore. History will be made at the 2008 Indianapolis500 when a pair of distinctive yet highly differentiated Corvette modelswill serve as the official pace cars - one highlighting Chevrolet'scommitment to fuel solutions and the other marking 30 years ofCorvette's pace car heritage.
Chevrolet and Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials gathered at theIndianapolis Auto Show to make the historic announcement.
One of the pace cars is a customized Corvette Z06 E85 concept that runson E85 ethanol fuel, a domestically produced alternative fuel similar tothe E100 fuel that powers all of the racecars in the IndyCar Series. Itwill be driven during the race's pace lap by two-time Indianapolis 500champion Emerson Fittipaldi.
The other official pace car is a black-and-silver commemorative editionthat marks the 30th anniversary of the celebrated 1978 pace car - thefirst Corvette to pace the field at the Indianapolis 500. Chevrolet willproduce a total of 500 pace car replicas in both coupe and convertibleform, each signed personally by Fittipaldi at the Corvette's BowlingGreen, Ky., assembly plant.
"Although not a production FlexFuel vehicle, the Corvette Z06 E85concept pace car is a high-performance example of Chevrolet'sgas-friendly to gas-free initiative, demonstrating viable fuelsolutions," said Ed Peper, Chevrolet general manager. "As an ethanolrefiner in his native Brazil, Emerson Fittipaldi is the fittingChevrolet champion to help support GM's efforts with E85 and celebrate30 years of the Corvette pacing the Indianapolis 500."
The 92nd Indianapolis 500 takes place on Sunday, May 25, 2008. It willbe the Corvette's 10th appearance as the official pace car - a recordunmatched by any other vehicle.
"It's only fitting that Corvette will be the first car to earn thedistinction of having two models pace the Indianapolis 500 in the sameyear," said Joie Chitwood, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president andchief operating officer. "Chevrolet and Corvette are a vital part of therich history of 'The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,' and we're honored tohave a great champion of the race and of alternative fuels, EmersonFittipaldi, as this year's pace car driver."
Corvette Z06 E85 concept
The Corvette Z06 E85 concept pace car is based on the production Z06 -already one of the fastest and most powerful cars on the market - andblends its performance with the high-octane, renewable alternative fuelthat is derived from a variety of crops grown across the United States.
E85 is blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. Its benefitsinclude reduced emissions of greenhouse gases and a reduced dependenceon petroleum. GM is the leader in E85 production models, with more than2.5 million E85-capable cars, trucks and SUVs on the road - with more onthe way. Chevrolet offers seven E85-capable models in 2008.
Apart from the fuel system and powertrain controller revisions requiredto run E85, the Z06 concept pace car is mechanically stock. It isdistinguished by a unique Gold Rush Green color-shifting paint schemethat changes between hues of green and gold when viewed from differentangles and in different light. A subtle checkered flag pattern also ispart of the paint scheme. Safety equipment and strobe lights are theonly other equipment added to the car.
Emerson Fittipaldi: ambassador of racing and ethanol
After winning the Indianapolis 500 in 1989 and 1993 while driving forChevrolet - and spending 30 years in his native Brazil as a refiner ofethanol - Emerson Fittipaldi is the perfect ambassador to lead theIndianapolis 500 in an E85-powered Corvette Z06.
"Most of the vehicles in Brazil are powered by ethanol produced fromcrops grown in the country, so I understand how a domestically producedrenewable fuel can help the energy solutions of a nation," Fittipaldisaid. "And the E85-powered Z06 concept pace car proves economic andenvironmental consciousness can be fun and exhilarating. I can't wait toget it on the racetrack."
Fittipaldi, whose personal cars include a Corvette Z06 and a Camaroawarded after winning the 1993 Indianapolis 500, resides in both Floridaand Brazil. He has interests in several Brazilian ethanol companies andis an ardent champion of ethanol as a viable alternative to gasoline.
Brazil - the fifth-largest country in the world - is a global leader inethanol usage in automobiles. Approximately 70 percent of Brazilian newcars are equipped with FlexFuel systems that allow the use of agasoline/ethanol mix or pure ethanol. Ethanol production has growntremendously during the last three decades and has allowed the countryto practically wean itself completely from imported oil.
30th Anniversary commemorative edition
Commemorating one of the most recognizable Indianapolis 500 pace cars,the Corvette 30th Anniversary Pace Car features a black exterior withsilver graphics that honors the 1978 model - the production replicas ofwhich became instant collectibles and continue to stand as an iconicsymbol of Corvette's heritage at the front of the Indy field.
In addition to the exterior color scheme, the anniversary models areequipped with a special, two-tone titanium-color interior, with theIndianapolis 500 logo embroidered on the seats. Coupe and convertiblemodels are available. Each replica will be personally signed andnumbered by Emerson Fittipaldi.
Both the coupe and convertible come equipped with Corvette's 3LT optionpackage, Z51 performance package and dual-mode exhaust. Additionalfeatures include:
* Choice of six-speed manual or six-speed paddle-shift automatic transmissions
* LS3 small block V8 with 436 hp
* New-for-2008 forged chrome five-spoke aluminum wheels
* Corvette Z06 rear spoiler
* Silver checkered flag graphics
* Indy 500 logo fender badges
More information on pricing and availability will be announced a later date.
Corvette at Indy
The 2008 edition of the Indianapolis 500 represents Corvette's 10th time as the official pace car - and a record fifth-consecutive year - and Chevrolet's 19th time as the manufacturer selected to lead the field. Corvette's pace years and details include:
* 1978 - Driven by 1960 race winner Jim Rathmann; Chevrolet produced 6,502 production replicas
* 1986 - Driven by famed pilot Chuck Yeager; all 7,315 production convertibles were considered pace car convertibles and included official graphics (to be installed at the owner's discretion)
* 1995 - Driven by then Chevrolet General Manager Jim Perkins; 527 production replicas produced
* 1998 - Driven by 1963 race winner Parnelli Jones when an injury prevented golfer Greg Norman from performing the duty; 1,158 production replicas produced
* 2002 - Driven by actor Jim Caviezel; no production replicas produced but graphics were available through SPO - approximately 300 sets sold
* 2004 - Driven by actor Morgan Freeman; no production replicas produced
* 2005 - Driven by General Colin Powell; no production replicas produced
* 2006 - Driven by cycling champion Lance Armstrong; first Corvette Z06 pace car; no production replicas produced
* 2007 - Driven by actor Patrick Dempsey; 500 production replicas - all convertibles
* 2008 - Driven by Emerson Fittipaldi; 500 production replicas - coupes and convertibles
The Indianapolis 500 is the largest single-day spectator sporting eventand the most prestigious auto race in the world. "The Greatest Spectaclein Racing" has been run every year since 1911 at the Indianapolis MotorSpeedway, except for the periods during the United States' participationin world wars in 1917-18 and 1942-45. The winner of the 92ndIndianapolis 500 will earn racing immortality, a spot on the famedBorg-Warner Trophy and a record winner's purse of at least $2.5 million.