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World Challenge - Segal and Co-Driver Emil Assentato Persevere For Top-10 Finish At VIR

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DANVILLE, May 15, 2011: A challenging Bosch Engineering 250 with mixed weather conditions and race strategies saw Jeff Segal and teammate Emil Assentato persevere for a hard-earned eighth-place finish in the No. 69 FXDD/SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 GT Saturday at Virginia International Raceway (VIR).

Last year at VIR, Segal and Assentato left with a second-place finish and a points lead they wouldn’t lose for the rest of the season. Returning this year as the reigning GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT Champions, Segal and Assentato were happy to just leave a rain-soaked VIR with their No. 69 FXDD Mazda in one piece and their title defense within reach of the current class leaders.

“The first part of the race the idea was to just stay out of trouble and keep the car on the track,” Segal said. “We knew it was going to dry out, so we just didn’t want to make any mistakes and keep the car going until then. We started climbing through the field, the car was really good in the wet, but visibility was the biggest thing. There was so much mud on the track, someone would kick up mud in front of you and you really couldn’t see anything.”

Despite the challenging conditions, Assentato quickly moved up to seventh early in his opening race stint and led a lap when the field began to cycle through for the first round of pit stops. Segal took over in the race’s first hour and moved to the front of the field to lead seven laps in the second half of the race before pitting.

“We took a little bit more conservative strategy, left the rain tires on longer when everybody else kind of pitted, and ultimately I probably think that was our downfall,” Segal said. “Everybody else pitted for a splash of fuel toward the end and we had to do a full tank. We got shuffled back.”

Segal was trying to make up some lost ground when he ran into some trouble about 20 minutes from the end of the race.

“I had a little incident with a couple of other cars that sent me off the track and got me in the mud,” Segal said. “So, all things considered, we were lucky not to get stuck there and go a lap down. I was able to climb back through the field to where I was, but we just didn’t have the speed to go any further through the field. That’s all we had for today and we will get them next time.”

The No. 69 FXDD/SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 GT team jumped from 10th to seventh place in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT Team Championship standings with 99 points. The FXDD squad has also closed to within 17 points of the class leaders and is knotted in a close group of six top teams in positions two through seven separated by just four points.

Next up for Jeff Segal, the No. 69 FXDD/SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 GT team and the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series is the Memorial Day Classic at Connecticut’s Lime Rock Park on Memorial Day Monday, May 30. The race can be seen live on SPEED that day at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT.