GM announced today that not one, but two Corvettes will pace next year's Indy 500. A one-off E85-powered Z06 will be joined by a Corvette Convertible. The latter's color scheme pays homage to the first Corvette Indy Pace Car that led racers around the Brickyard back in 1978. Former Indy champion Emerson Fittipaldi will take the wheel of the flex-fuel Z06, which is mechanically stock save for its fuel system and PCM, both of which are modified to allow for the use of E85. The Z06 sports a garish green/gold color-shifting paint scheme that's augmented by a checkered-flag motif and a ridiculously large E85 ETHANOL decal across the front bumper.
The second pace car will spawn a limited run of 500 replicas, each signed and numbered by Emmo. Available in coupe and convertible bodystyles, the black-and-silver pace car clones really aren't much to look at (the inherent attractiveness of the C6 goes right out the window once you start decaling it up), but they're bound to be collectible. You can have a gander at both pace vehicles in the high-res gallery.
Chevrolet Unveils Two Unique '08 Corvette Indy 500 Pace Cars
Two-time Indy 500 Champion Emerson Fittipaldi to Drive Corvette Z06 E85 Concept Pace Car at 92nd Indianapolis 500
INDIANAPOLIS – Known for their charismatic designs and superior performance, the pack-leading pace cars share a special place in Indianapolis 500 lore. History will be made at the 2008 Indianapolis 500 when a pair of distinctive yet highly differentiated Corvette models will serve as the official pace cars – one highlighting Chevrolet's commitment to fuel solutions and the other marking 30 years of Corvette's pace car heritage.
Chevrolet and Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials gathered at the Indianapolis Auto Show to make the historic announcement.
One of the pace cars is a customized Corvette Z06 E85 concept that runs on E85 ethanol fuel, a domestically produced alternative fuel similar to the E100 fuel that powers all of the racecars in the IndyCar Series. It will be driven during the race's pace lap by two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Emerson Fittipaldi.
The other official pace car is a black-and-silver commemorative edition that marks the 30th anniversary of the celebrated 1978 pace car – the first Corvette to pace the field at the Indianapolis 500. Chevrolet will produce a total of 500 pace car replicas in both coupe and convertible form, each signed personally by Fittipaldi at the Corvette's Bowling Green, Ky., assembly plant.
"Although not a production FlexFuel vehicle, the Corvette Z06 E85 concept pace car is a high-performance example of Chevrolet's gas-friendly to gas-free initiative, demonstrating viable fuel solutions," said Ed Peper, Chevrolet general manager. "As an ethanol refiner in his native Brazil, Emerson Fittipaldi is the fitting Chevrolet champion to help support GM's efforts with E85 and celebrate 30 years of the Corvette pacing the Indianapolis 500."
The 92nd Indianapolis 500 takes place on Sunday, May 25, 2008. It will be the Corvette's 10th appearance as the official pace car – a record unmatched by any other vehicle.
"It's only fitting that Corvette will be the first car to earn the distinction of having two models pace the Indianapolis 500 in the same year," said Joie Chitwood, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president and chief operating officer. "Chevrolet and Corvette are a vital part of the rich history of 'The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,' and we're honored to have a great champion of the race and of alternative fuels, Emerson Fittipaldi, 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 – and blends its performance with the high-octane, renewable alternative fuel that is derived from a variety of crops grown across the United States.
E85 is blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. Its benefits include reduced emissions of greenhouse gases and a reduced dependence on petroleum. GM is the leader in E85 production models, with more than 2.5 million E85-capable cars, trucks and SUVs on the road – with more on the way. Chevrolet offers seven E85-capable models in 2008.
Apart from the fuel system and powertrain controller revisions required to run E85, the Z06 concept pace car is mechanically stock. It is distinguished by a unique Gold Rush Green color-shifting paint scheme that changes between hues of green and gold when viewed from different angles and in different light. A subtle checkered flag pattern also is part of the paint scheme. Safety equipment and strobe lights are the only other equipment added to the car.
Emerson Fittipaldi: ambassador of racing and ethanol
After winning the Indianapolis 500 in 1989 and 1993 while driving for Chevrolet – and spending 30 years in his native Brazil as a refiner of ethanol – Emerson Fittipaldi is the perfect ambassador to lead the Indianapolis 500 in an E85-powered Corvette Z06.
"Most of the vehicles in Brazil are powered by ethanol produced from crops grown in the country, so I understand how a domestically produced renewable fuel can help the energy solutions of a nation," Fittipaldi said. "And the E85-powered Z06 concept pace car proves economic and environmental consciousness can be fun and exhilarating. I can't wait to get it on the racetrack."
Fittipaldi, whose personal cars include a Corvette Z06 and a Camaro awarded after winning the 1993 Indianapolis 500, resides in both Florida and Brazil. He has interests in several Brazilian ethanol companies and is an ardent champion of ethanol as a viable alternative to gasoline.
Brazil – the fifth-largest country in the world – is a global leader in ethanol usage in automobiles. Approximately 70 percent of Brazilian new cars are equipped with FlexFuel systems that allow the use of a gasoline/ethanol mix or pure ethanol. Ethanol production has grown tremendously during the last three decades and has allowed the country to 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 with silver graphics that honors the 1978 model – the production replicas of which became instant collectibles and continue to stand as an iconic symbol of Corvette's heritage at the front of the Indy field.
In addition to the exterior color scheme, the anniversary models are equipped with a special, two-tone titanium-color interior, with the Indianapolis 500 logo embroidered on the seats. Coupe and convertible models are available. Each replica will be personally signed and numbered by Emerson Fittipaldi.
Both the coupe and convertible come equipped with Corvette's 3LT option package, Z51 performance package and dual-mode exhaust. Additional features 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
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