Daytona Prototype Co-Champion Papis to Receive Prestigious Caschi D'Oro Award in Italy This Weekend

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (December 10, 2004) -- Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype co-champion Max Papis will return to his native Italy this weekend for the first time as a champion where he and an international panel of his fellow motorsports stars will be honored at the prestigious Caschi D'Oro awards ceremony in Bologna.

The Caschi D'Oro celebration -- which is Italian for the Golden Helmets -- has been considered the "Oscars" of the international motorsports arena since its introduction in 1966. During the annual ceremony, motorsports weekly news magazine Autosprint awards all drivers and car manufacturers that have won one world or national title as well as the Rookies of the Year. The ceremony is televised live on the Italian national RAI network.

Papis will receive the award for the third time following his championship winning season in the 2004 Rolex Sports Car Series with co-driver Scott Pruett and the No. 01 CompUSA Lexus Riley. Papis received his first Caschi D'Oro in 1994 as a rising star in Italy and was awarded his second Golden Helmet as a three-time race winner with Team Rahal in Champ Car competition in 2000 -- 2001.

"The Caschi D'Oro is among the highest honors a driver can achieve in this sport and I am honored to accept it for the third time, not only for me, my family and my friends, but as a champion of the Rolex Sports Car Series as well," Papis said. "I am particularly honored to return to my home country of Italy to accept the Caschi D'Oro as a champion."

This year Papis will be honored with friend and IRL IndyCar Champion Tony Kanaan, Formula One World Champion Michael Schumacher, Rally Racing stalwarts Sebastien Loeb and Citroen and Ferrari Formula One team Principal Jean Todt.

Adding to what promises to be a memorable night, Papis' close friend and fellow driver Alex Zanardi will present the Rolex Series champ with his award. Zanardi is a former Caschi D'Oro winner and it was at the 2001 awards ceremony where he stood for the first time just months after losing his legs in that September's accident at the Lausitzring in Germany. Papis will be accompanied by fiancee Tatiana Fittipaldi, who previously attended the ceremony when her father--international racing legend Emerson Fittipaldi--accepted his fourth Caschi D'Oro award.

The Caschi D'Oro ceremony, which is organized by motorsports weekly news magazine Autosprint, will be held in Bologna on Saturday night as part of that city's annual Motor Show. The Motor Show has reached its 29th edition this year and the show will see once again the participation of all the main automotive manufactures from Aston Martin to Volkswagen, Ferrari to Honda, as well as General Motors with its Opel and Saab brands. Races, exhibitions and trial of products make for one of Italy's most awaited winter events with more than one million visitors each year.