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Grand-Am partnership support reaches all-time high
The unparalleled on-track action in both the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve and the Grand-Am Cup Series was matched by an unprecedented level of partnership support for both series in 2006.

The renewal of existing partners combined with the addition of new ones made 2006 a record year for Grand-Am. The year began with the addition of Crown Royal Special Reserve--which joined the Rolex Series as a team sponsor in 2005--as the first presenting sponsor of the Rolex Series. In fact, before the 2006 Rolex Series had even turned a wheel in competition, Grand-Am added two more partners to its roster, as Bernheim Group became the largest contingency sponsor of the Grand-Am Cup Series, while Performance Drink signed-on in support of both the Rolex Series and Grand-Am Cup.

The Bernheim Improve Your Position Award presented $2,500 in both the Grand Sport (GS) and Street Tuner (ST) class for each race to the teams that improved their class position the most, and presented $5,000 to the team that won the most Bernheim Improve Your Position Awards during the season. The $5,000 award was presented to the No. 173 Theetge Motorsport team at the 2006 Grand-Am Cup Awards Celebration in Orlando earlier this month.

Through its Performance Drink Endurance Challenge, Performance Drink provided $4,000 prizes to the highest combined points earners in both the Rolex Series Daytona Prototype and GT classes in the three endurance races on the schedule, as well as a $1,000 bonus to the Grand-Am Cup GS and ST class winners in the twin six-hour season finale at Virginia International Raceway in October. The No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team claimed the Daytona Prototype prize and the No. 17 SAMAX team earned the award in the GT class, while the No. 83 BGB Motorsports team and the No. 95 Turner Motorsport operation claimed the Performance Drink bonuses in Grand-Am Cup.

As part of the Road & Track 250 weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May, MESCO Building Solutions announced its support of the MESCO Building for the Future Rookie of the Year program, marking the first time in Rolex Series history that a Rookie of the Year would be named. The inaugural $10,000 award, which went to the rookie with the most points earned in either the Daytona Prototype or GT class, was earned by No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford driver Mike Rockenfeller.

Crown Royal Special Reserve, Bernheim Group, Performance Drink and MESCO Building Solutions joined an impressive roster that included title sponsor Rolex, as well as series partners SunTrust, Hoosier Racing Tire, Pontiac, GMC, Featherlite Trailers, Sahlen's, The Print Network, Racing Radios, Coca-Cola, Sunoco, Stand 21 Racewear and MBNA.

SunTrust, Hoosier and Featherlite stepped-up their commitment to Grand-Am in 2006. SunTrust continued its support of the SunTrust Improve Your Position Award in the Rolex Series, while introducing the SunTrust Challenge Award for the Grand-Am Cup Series teams in each class that earned the most points from the four events in key SunTrust markets at Daytona International Speedway, Barber Motorsports Park and Virginia International Raceway. The $1,000 awards went to the No. 97 Turner Motorsport team in GS and the No. 95 Turner Motorsport team in ST. As part of the NASCAR championship weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November, SunTrust and Grand-Am announced that SunTrust will continue its status as "Official Bank of Grand-Am" through 2009.

Hoosier contributed more than $500,000 in prize money bonuses to the 19 teams that were part of the Hoosier PaceSetter program in 2006, and will increase its contribution to the PaceSetter program by $300,000 in 2007. Featherlite Luxury Coach presented the Rolex Series Daytona Prototype and GT championship-winning team owners with luxury coaches to use at the 2007 Rolex 24 At Daytona.

For 2007, three new series partners have joined the Grand-Am family. At the SEMA show in Las Vegas last month, KONI and Grand-Am announced a three-year deal making KONI the title sponsor of the Grand-Am Cup Series, which has been renamed the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series. KONI also unveiled an extensive contingency program for KONI Challenge and Rolex Series teams that will begin in 2007. Also at SEMA, Piloti Driving Shoes was named the Preferred Footwear Partner of Grand-Am, and Piloti will offer a customized Rolex Series shoe for sale at the Grand-Am merchandise trailer and on www.grand-am.com next year.

In February, BOSCH was announced as the sole supplier of engine control units (ECUs) for both the Rolex Series and the KONI Challenge Series beginning in 2007. BOSCH will also provide a contingency program for teams in both series in addition to other marketing and sponsorship activities.

The new and existing series partners, many of which also support teams in the Rolex Series and KONI Challenge, look toward 2007 with the goal of maximizing their exposure. Opportunities to do so may never be better, as sponsorship value in the Rolex Series alone increased by nearly $11 million over 2006 according to Joyce Julius and Associates, Inc.

The dollar value based on cost per 30 seconds totaled $27,945,255 in 2006, an increase of $10,855,035 over the previous year's total of $17,090,220. The numbers increase was supported by SPEED replays of 10 events in 2006, whereas in 2005, only one event was aired more than once.

Among Rolex Series corporate partners, Pontiac and Rolex led the way for the second consecutive year in 2006, both totaling more than $2.3 million in value. Manufacturers Lexus and Porsche and Daytona Prototype constructor Riley Technologies also totaled huge numbers in exposure value. In the team sponsor category, SunTrust, Crown Royal Special Reserve and TRG were joined in the top-five by 2006 Rolex Series newcomers Ruby Tuesday and Playboy.

Exposure times were based on graphics running order, vehicle identity, windshield identity, driver identification graphics, series title graphics, event title graphics, in-car cameras, driver and crew uniforms and starting lineup graphics.

On-track activity for both the Rolex Series and KONI Challenge gets underway next week with the annual Daytona Test Days, scheduled for Jan. 4-6 at the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway road course. Fans wishing to get up close to all of the action at Daytona Test Days are in for a treat, as the inaugural "Roar Before the Rolex 24" will give fans access to the paddock and the NEXTEL FanZone at Daytona on Friday and Saturday. As part of the "Roar", the track is hosting a series of 30-minute forums both days, providing fans the opportunity to ask questions of their favorite drivers. Admission for the "Roar Before the Rolex 24" is $5 at the gate and children 12 and under are free.

The Grand American Road Racing Association, which operates and sanctions the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve and the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series, is the premier road racing organization in North America. The 15-race 2007 Rolex Series schedule and the 12-race KONI Challenge Series calendar will deliver professional sports car racing to key markets throughout North America. All 2007 Rolex Series events will be televised in the United States and Canada on SPEED and distributed globally through ESPN International. With title sponsorship support from Rolex Watch USA and presenting sponsorship from Crown Royal Special Reserve, the Rolex Series showcases emerging and legendary drivers from around the globe and thoroughbred racing machines from the industry's leading constructors and the world's top automobile manufacturers. Learn more about Grand-Am at www.grand-am.com.

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