FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW CORVETTE GAINS PODIUM FINISH AT ROLEX 24
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 31, 1999) The historic Rolex 24 at Daytona endurance race is no place for the meek and mild. It is a grueling, twice-around-the-clock grind with no time outs and no mercy shown to drivers and crews. Thats exactly why Chevrolet racing executives selected the 1999 Rolex 24, run January 30 31, on the 3.56 mile Daytona road course, to introduce and showcase the brand new C5-R Corvette.
Chevrolet fielded two teams of three drivers each in the sleek, black and silver GM Goodwrench sponsored Corvettes. The effort was the first full factory-supported program designed around a production vehicle using a wide range of production components. They were entered in the endurance event with barely 4,000 miles of testing and track development.
The #2 C5-R Corvette with drivers Ron Fellows, Chris Kneifel and John Paul Jr. set the stage for an impressive showing with quick practice times and earned a second-place starting spot in the competitive GT2 class. The #4 C5-R Corvette with drivers Scott Sharp, Andy Pilgrim and John Heinricy was just a tick slower, starting third in class.
" I think this really shows the commitment on Chevrolets part and the confidence they have in the products they build to come here and run a 24-hour race as the very first event," said Paul Jr. "We picked up the lead after about eight hours into the race and lead it until daylight.
Fellows and his driving partners worked the #2 C5-R through the field to run first in GT2 and as high as 5th overall in the field of 77.
After leading for over half the 24-hour marathon and with just a few hours to go, the #2 C5-R developed an oil consuming problem requiring a lengthy pit stop to locate and repair. The car fell eight laps behind the class leader, ultimately finishing 3rd in class completing 2136 miles.
The #4 car suffered an assortment of minor teething problems requiring unplanned pit stops during the night. The car returned after a lengthy pit stop to complete 366 laps and finish 12th in the GT2 class. Despite assorted problems, neither car suffered any problems with production-vehicle components, a goal going into the grueling 24-hour test.
"Im so proud of our crews and the amazing work they did. We came here with a goal of being running at the finish," said Joe Negri of GM Motorsports Technology Group. "We were able to get both cars up front during the event and the #2 car led for many laps. The crews just never gave up."
The Daytona event is one of a selected group of endurance races planned for theCorvettes during the 1999 season. The next race will be Sebring in March.
#2 GM GOODWRENCH C5-R CORVETTE
"We got to the place in the development of the new cars where we just had to go racing.
There isnt a tougher place to come do this than Daytona, arguably the most difficult 24-hour race there is anywhere in the world. To bring new cars and to debut them here is a tough, tough proposition. I know all of us feel like weve been well prepared and it was time to go racing.
We know now that the cars are pretty quick and we have a good package."
"It really feels good to come here and lead this 24-hour race the first time out of the box. Right now all our focus and energy is going towards getting this #4 car home these last couple hours. We gotta get this car home in one piece so were just taking care of our baby here.
The Corvette has been good to us all through the night."
#4 GM GOODWRENCH C5-R CORVETTE
"I thought the whole first part of the race when we took the car out it was performing pretty much the way we expected. Andy (Pilgrim), me and Scott (Sharp) all got the GM Goodwrench Corvette into a kinda of rhythm that would be good for the time period wed be in the car. If we tried to run too hard, wed use up the tires too quickly. We figured out a routine that would save the tires and still run quickly. We felt real good about getting that kind of a routine going.
"The #4 car was doing everything we wanted it to do. The brakes were perfect all the time. The handling was always good as long as we were driving our routine. We were really happy with that. What happened as we got further into the race last night, we had some problems with the left rear upright which compounded the problems we had with the rear end. The #2 car had some problems but they were able to get through that quickly after the learning from our experience on our car.
I think everything went the way we expected. I sure would not have expected to go through a 24-hour race the first time out with absolutely no problems with new cars and new teams. But with the problems weve had and the way theyve been dealt with shows that the cars are good and the teams know what they are doing. As you can see, the #2 car is still up there 5th or 6th overall and first in GT2."
"You have to be on the racetrack, basically, to learn about a race car and to get the thing reliable. I think for the first outing for the teams and these Corvette C5Rs, both cars were up front for certainly the first seven or eight hours.
"Our car had some problems. The #2 car led and they had things they had to contend with, although not as final as those we had in the #4 car. All of that data is exceptionally valuable going on from this point.
"So youve got to be on the track and were on the track. Were doing it and were competing against some of the best endurance teams and drivers in the world the Porsche the Viper and were up front.
"I cant believe it. Its just about the most encouraging start that Chevrolet and the Corvette Group could have expected. Tremendous!"
DAVE HILL VEHICLE LINE EXECUTIVE FOR CORVETTE
"To have both cars running at the end of a 24-hour race their first time racing is just a tremendous accomplishment. And neither car had any failures related to their production-vehicle components which is a true testament to the C5 Corvette and both of these race teams."
JIM CAMPBELL BRAND MANAGER, CORVETTE/CAMARO
"One of the reasons we returned to racing was to reinforce Corvettes image and heritage as Americas true sports car, and with this race I think these two cars did that. It was quite an undertaking to make our debut in the 24 Hours at Daytona, but both cars met our goals and expectations and then some."
GARY CLAUDIO - CHEVROLET RACE SHOP
"Some gremlins appeared in both automobiles, but I think we will get our arms around them and have something for the Porsches and Vipers at Sebring. This is the best team Ive ever been associated with they just get in there and get it done. If the race announcers were to pick an All-Madden Team, these guys would be on it for sure! Well see you in Sebring."