Team Olive Garden boosters attack on 2003 GTS championship

Coca-Cola reprises 2002 sponsorship role. Orlando, Fla. (January 14, 2003) - In the weeks after the close of the 2002 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) championship, the medieval Italian town of San Gimignano was a very busy place, and it...

Coca-Cola reprises 2002 sponsorship role.

Orlando, Fla. (January 14, 2003) - In the weeks after the close of the 2002 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) championship, the medieval Italian town of San Gimignano was a very busy place, and it wasn't just because of the grape and olive harvests. The ancient walled town is headquarters for Team Olive Garden Ferrari and it has been a buzz of technical development as preparations mount for the battle against the factory Corvette team in the 2003 ALMS GTS category.

Led by Gabriele Rafanelli, the "Team from Tuscany" will return to the U.S. in February - again with the principal backing of Olive Garden Italian Restaurants and Coca-Cola - to test the evolutionary version of its Ferrari 550 Maranello racing machine. The 2003 effort will be invigorated by state-of-the-art engine development work from Elan Power Products, by new engineering leadership and a great number of technical improvement.

Leading the work on the 2003 evolution model is yet another Italian: Former Ferrari F1 engineer, Dr. Luigi Urbinelli. Urbinelli not only engineered Jean Alesi during his time with Ferrari F1, but also had a substantial hand in the designs of "the Scuderia's" 641,642, 643 and F92A Grand Prix entries as well as serving as Technical Coordinator of the Design team for the legendary Ferrari F50 GTS.

Urbinelli and his associates have completely revised last year's car and created a 2003 evolution model that is both stiffer and lighter. New diffusers front and rear substantially improve underbody aero- dynamic efficiency. Both front and rear suspensions have been re- placed with improved designs with new mounting points, all-new components and sharply improved kinematics. Hewland has provided a lighter evolution gearbox, now with sequential shift.

One of the few things not changed about the car is the driving team. Both Mimmo Schiattarella and Emanuele Naspetti will return as partners for Team Olive Garden in the ten-race ALMS championship that begins with the 12 Hours of Sebring, March 15. A third driver for the Sebring enduro is expected to be announced in early February.

Team Olive Garden scored three podium finishes last year on its way to third place in the IMSA Cup and fourth in the 2002 ALMS GTS team championship. Naspetti was ranked 7th in GTS driver points while Schiattarella placed 9th.

Team Olive Garden Launches Fourth Season Of "Drive Against Hunger"

Last season, along with the silver cups and the championship points however, Team Olive Garden achieved a victory for the hungry in America. Through Olive Garden's Drive Against Hunger program, last year Olive Garden restaurants in the areas of the ALMS events invite- ed more than 1,100 needy families to enjoy hearty Italian dinners.

This season launches the fourth year of the program. Through the Drive Against Hunger, Olive Garden extends an invitation to a needy family for each lap the team completes in ALMS races. After three years of the program, well over 15,000 meals have been served to the needy. Additionally, Olive Garden makes large donations of food products to the Food Bank in each ALMS community. To date, Olive Garden's donations have amounted to over one-half million pounds of food, enough to provide a meal for approximately three-quarter million needy people.

Olive Garden is the leading restaurant in the Italian casual dining segment with 507 restaurants, more than 60,000 employees and over $1.9 billion in annual sales. Olive Garden is a division of Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE:DRI) -- the world's largest casual dining restaurant company. Visit Olive Garden's web site at www.olivegarden.com

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