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GM Performance Division Sets Speed Record In Bonne

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Guest Josh
WENDOVER, Utah - It took Mother Nature millennia to create the Bonneville Salt Flats, but she needed only a few hours of hard rain to wash out this year's Bonneville Speed Week. After two days of speed trials, a violent storm swept through northern Utah on the evening of August 16, leaving standing water on the immense natural speedway and compelling officials to cancel the final four days of the event.

Before the rain came, journalist Don Sherman drove GM Performance Division's Ecotec Lakester to a 189.205 mph speed record in G/BGL (G Class/Blown Gas Lakester). Sherman eclipsed the 179.381 mark set in October 2004 by GM engineer Mark Dickens with the high-tech reincarnation of the famous So-Cal Speed Shop Lakester. A supercharged Ecotec engine based on the crate motor that's available to enthusiasts through GM Performance Parts provided the horsepower for the Ecotec Lakester's record run.

"Course conditions were challenging this year on the Salt Flats, and the rain-shortened schedule prevented GM Performance Division from achieving record speeds with all of our entries," said Al Oppenheiser, director of Concept Vehicle Engineering. "We were successful in raising the record with the Ecotec Lakester, and we gained valuable experience with our 2006 Chevrolet So-Cal HHR, Chevrolet So-Cal Cobalt SS, and the Chevrolet California Street Rods Student Project Cobalt SS. We look forward to applying that knowledge when GM Performance Division and our partners return to the salt on October 12-15 for the World Finals."

Four young women were among the many disappointed racers on the soggy salt. They had participated in GM Performance Division's innovative student project partnering with a build team from California Street Rods, applying their engineering and organizational skills to the design, construction and testing of a Cobalt SS land speed racer during a 12-week internship. The four students -- Tessa Russell, Sarah Jubenville, Heather Chemistruck, and Idalia Ovalle - had been certified in high-speed driving at the GM Desert Proving Grounds in preparation for their planned record run at Bonneville. The Student Project Cobalt achieved 140 mph in shakedown runs, and was in line to make a record attempt when the rain arrived.

"The purpose of the Bonneville student program was to give four young female engineers an opportunity to exercise their abilities in a unique environment while giving them hands-on experience and introducing them to GM's resources and processes," said Michelle Burrows, GM Performance Division student projects manager. "Setting a record would have been a fine bonus, but the fact that the car was constructed and tested on a very compressed schedule made the project a success."

GM Performance Division's stunning HHR topped 208 mph on the Salt Flats and attracted crowds in the pits. This chopped and stretched version of the production HHR will return in October when GM Performance Division engineer Jim Minneker aims for the 226.835 mph record in G/BFCC (G Class/Blown Fuel Competition Coupe). The Bonneville machine has already achieved its objective of creating a buzz around Chevy's new HHR.

GM Performance Division engineers were also aiming to eclipse their own record in the Chevy So-Cal Cobalt SS. In 2003, GM engineer Jim Minneker set the standard in the G/Blown Fuel Altered class at 212.684 mph driving a Saturn Ion Red Line coupe. Considering that the Cobalt topped 243 mph in last year's warm-up, the team was extremely confident of setting the official record this year. However, the Cobalt was only able to make one pass on this year's track before the weather cancelled the event. A return pass is mandated by the Southern California Timing Association to set an official record.

General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM), the world's largest automaker, has been the global industry sales leader since 1931. Founded in 1908, GM today employs about 317,000 people around the world. It has manufacturing operations in 32 countries and its vehicles are sold in 200 countries. In 2004, GM sold nearly 9 million cars and trucks globally, up 4 percent and the second-highest total in the company's history. GM's global headquarters are at the GM Renaissance Center in Detroit. More information on GM can be found at www.gm.com.

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