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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 22, 1999) -- In 1956, four factory-backed Chevrolet Corvettes made their first appearance at Daytona’s International Safety and Performance Trials, commonly known as Speedweeks. Their goal was to exceed 150 mph on the famed sandy beaches, and their 265 cu. inch V-8 engine helped them exceed that target by five miles per hour.

Forty-three years later, the legend continues. The Corvette is five generations down the road as America’s best-loved performance sports car, and GM’s most prestigious nameplate is back at Daytona in the form of two C5-R (the "R" is for racing) Corvettes, GM factory-engineered GT2 sports cars. In 1999, America’s true sports car returns to road racing to compete with the likes of Porsche, Viper and BMW in select endurance races starting with the Rolex 24 at Daytona on January 30-31, 1999, with an eye towards competing globally against the competition at the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2000.

Not only will the C5-R Corvette be RACING at Daytona, but the latest addition to Chevrolet’s fifth-generation family of C5 Corvettes, the hardtop, was selected to PACE the international field of world-class sports cars at Daytona International Speedway’s famed 3.56-mile road course as the Official Pace Car of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The hardtop is the first fixed-roof ‘Vette offered since the legendary second-generation Sting Rays of the 1963-67 era.

Since those early days on the beaches of Daytona, Corvette has successfully competed with international sports cars in the showroom and on the streets, establishing itself as an innovative and technologically advanced performance machine. With the introduction of the C5-R, it prepares to add another chapter to its storied history.

The #2 C5-R Corvette will be driven by Trans-Am veteran Ron Fellows, former CART driver Chris Kneifel, and two-time Rolex 24 race winner and Indy Racing League driver John Paul Jr. The #4 C5-R Corvette will be driven by John Heinricy, both a sports-car racing veteran and GM’s chief engineer for the Chevrolet Camaro/Pontiac Firebird, 1997 Rolex 24 GT1 winner and IMSA veteran Andy Pilgrim, and 1996 Rolex 24 overall winner and 1996 IRL co-champ Scott Sharp.

"This opportunity has obviously been great for me, but I think Corvette’s return is great for all of sports-car racing," said Fellows. "The car is very good and handles well, but it’s difficult to debut in a 24-hour race. There are a lot of unknowns, and until you’ve run the car for 24 hours, you just don’t know."

Many GM divisions and sponsorship partners are supporting the C5-R project. GM Goodwrench Service Plus, marketed by GM Service Parts Operations (SPO), is the primary sponsor of both C5-R Corvette entries. An exclusive line of factory-engineered race parts from GM Performance Parts is available to sportsman racers. Other sponsor partners include UAW-GM, General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC), Mobil Oil and its Mobil 1 brand, Action Performance Companies, Mid America Designs and Cutter & Buck apparel.

A longtime Corvette partner, The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company has also been providing technical assistance for the C5-R racing project. Goodyear, OEM tire supplier to Corvette since 1953, has developed a special Goodyear Racing Eagle tire for GT2 competition.

From a marketing standpoint, the C5-R racing project allows GM to show America and the world that they can modify a $40,000 production car to successfully compete with the best in the world at 1/3 the price.

"The racing program we’ve created reinforces and underscores our commitment to the Corvette and its magnificent heritage," explains Jim Campbell, Corvette brand manager. "Corvette is America’s performance icon, and all of us feel a responsibility to preserve and enhance the car’s image. The racing program is designed to help us fulfill that responsibility."

From a racing standpoint, this new C5-R will do the same thing Corvettes have been doing on racetracks the world over for more than forty years – it will bring honors, recognition and excitement to Chevrolet’s premier nameplate and to Corvette lovers worldwide.

Yes, the legend continues.

The 37th Rolex 24 at Daytona starts at 1:00 p.m. (Eastern) on Saturday, January 30, 1999. Pole qualifying for the twice-around-the-clock event begins on Thursday, January 28, starting at 3:00 p.m. The Rolex 24 will enjoy periodic live coverage on both ESPN2 and MRN Radio beginning at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 30.

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