FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Rick Voegelin High Performance Communications 408-761-2201
AURORA V8 POWERS 29 INDY 500 QUALIFIERS
Ten More Oldsmobiles Make Indy 500 Field in Second Week of Qualifying
Speedway, Ind.; May 18, 1997 -- Oldsmobile's production-based Indy Aurora V8 will power 29 of the 35 drivers who will race in the Indianapolis 500 on May 25. An Oldsmobile engine has never competed in the 80 previous runnings of the Indy 500; this year, 83 percent of the field will use Oldsmobile Indy Aurora V8 engines.
Ten of the 11 drivers who qualified in the second weekend of time trials used Indy Aurora V8 engines, posting the ten fastest speeds. Billy Boat, driving for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt, topped the list of second-week qualifiers at 215.544 mph.
Other Aurora racers who joined the Indy 500 starting lineup this weekend included Sam Schmidt, Billy Roe, Mark Dismore, Tyce Carlson, Marco Greco, Greg Ray, Claude Bourbonnais, and Paul Durant. Alessandro Zampedri was bumped from the field, but requalified with a backup car.
Indy Aurora V8 engines produced the 25 fastest qualifying speeds and swept the first five rows of the starting grid. Arie Luyendyk won the pole on May 10 with Treadway Racing's Aurora-powered Indy car with a four-lap average of 218.263 mph.
Following the conclusion of qualifying, IRL Executive Director Leo Mehl announced that the starting lineup would be expanded to 35 cars, ensuring that the 33 fastest cars would start the 500-mile race. "We have discontinued the reserved positions for 1998, and in my opinion this is the best and fairest thing we could do," said Mehl.
This decision reinstated two Infiniti entries that had been bumped from the field under the IRL's policy of reserving starting positions for teams that had participated in previous IRL events. The revised starting lineup includes 29 Indy Aurora V8s and six Infiniti Indy engines. The last time 35 cars started the Indy 500 was in 1979.
Six months and five days after Arie Luyendyk first tested Oldsmobile's new Indy car engine on a race track, the Indy Aurora V8 has emerged as the engine of choice at the Indianapolis 500. Sixteen teams and eight independent engine builders are represented on the roster of Aurora Indy 500 drivers. Twelve of the 13 rookie drivers will make their first Indy 500 starts with Aurora power.
"It's an exciting time now -- more exciting than we had ever anticipated," said Joe Negri, IRL program manager. "It's taken incredible teamwork by the GM engineers who design and develop the parts, the suppliers who produce them, the engine builders who assemble them, and the teams who race them to bring a new engine to the forefront in this short amount of time."
Indy 500 legend A.J. Foyt concurred: "They did a project in a year that normally takes three or four years. When you look at everything that's come together as quick as it has, I have to take my hat off to the manufacturers of both the engines and the cars. I'm proud of what they have done."
Teams using Indy Aurora V8 engines have logged 20,710 miles in practice and qualifying at Indianapolis Motor Speedway since May 4. Buzz Calkins is the mileage leader with 489 laps (1222.5 miles) at the Brickyard.
"The Aurora V8 has already proven its performance and durability in other racing series," said Dennis Weglarz, Oldsmobile Specialty Vehicle manager. "In 1992, a production Aurora V8 set 47 speed and endurance records. The first racing version of the Aurora V8 won IMSA road racing championships in 1995 and 1996. The all-new Indy Aurora V8 is the third phase of the Aurora research and development program.
"Oldsmobile has been able to base its motorsports program on an engine we sell to our customers because the production Aurora V8 has technical features such as lightweight aluminum construction, dual overhead cams, and multi-valve cylinder heads that were regarded as race engine technology just a few years ago," Weglarz added. "It would be a fantastic accomplishment for Oldsmobile to celebrate 100 years in business by winning the Indy 500 in its first appearance."
A stock production Aurora driven by three-time Indy 500 champion Johnny Rutherford will lead the 35 drivers to the green flag at the world's most famous auto race. The 81st Indianapolis 500 is scheduled to start at 11:00 a.m. local time (12:00 noon EDT) on May 25. The race will be televised live by ABC Sports.
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INDIANAPOLIS 500 STARTING LINEUP
Driver Entrant Engine Speed
Row 1 1. Arie Luyendyk Treadway Racing Aurora 218.263 2. Tony Stewart Team Menard Aurora 218.021 3. Vincenzo Sospiri Team Scandia Aurora 216.822 Row 2 4. Robbie Buhl Team Menard Aurora 216.102 5. Scott Goodyear Treadway Racing Aurora 215.811 6. Jim Guthrie Blueprint Racing Aurora 215.207 Row 3 7. Jeff Ward FirstPlus Team Cheever Aurora 214.517 8. Davey Hamilton A.J. Foyt Ent. Aurora 214.484 9. Eliseo Salazar Team Scandia Aurora 214.320 Row 4 10. Buddy Lazier Hemelgarn Racing Aurora 214.286 11. Eddie Cheever FirstPlus Team Cheever Aurora 214.073 12. Robby Gordon Team Sabco Aurora 213.211 Row 5 13. Stephan Gregoire Chastain Motorsports Aurora 213.126 14. Affonso Giaffone Chitwood Motorsports Aurora 212.974 15. Kenny Brack Galles Racing Aurora 211.221 Row 6 16. Buzz Calkins Bradley Motorsports Aurora 209.564 17. Jack Miller Arizona Motorsports Infiniti 209.250 18. Mike Groff Byrd-Cunningham Infiniti 208.537 Row 7 19. Roberto Guerrero Pagan Racing Infiniti 207.371 20. Steve Kinser Sinden Racing Service Aurora 210.793 21. Robbie Groff McCormack Motorsports Aurora 207.792 Row 8 22. Billy Boat A.J. Foyt Ent. Aurora 215.544 23. Sam Schmidt Blueprint Racing Aurora 215.141 24. Billy Roe Eurointernational Aurora 212.752 Row 9 25. Mark Dismore Kelley Automotive Grp. Aurora 212.423 26. Tyce Carlson PDM Racing Aurora 210.852 27. Marco Greco Team Scandia Aurora 210.322 Row 10 28. Dennis Vitolo Beck Motorsports Infiniti 207.626 29. Fermin Velez Team Scandia Aurora 206.512 30. Greg Ray Knapp Motorsport Aurora 213.760 Row 11 31. Alessandro Zampedri Team Scandia Aurora 211.757 32. Claude Bourbonnais Blueprint Racing Aurora 210.523 33. Paul Durant A.J. Foyt Ent. Aurora 209.149 Row 12 34. Lyn St. James Hemelgarn Racing Infiniti 210.145 35. Johnny Unser Hemelgarn Racing Infiniti 209.344 # # #
E-mail from: Rick Voegelin, 18-May-1997