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Grand Am GT - Segal Ready To Make Championship Move At Lime Rock

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LAKEVILLE, May 26, 2011: Reigning GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT-class co-champion Jeff Segal and co-driver Emil Assentato will be looking for a strong race result, and an even bigger step in the 2011 points battle, in Lime Rock Park’s Memorial Day Classic this holiday Monday, May 30.

The Memorial Day Classic is the opening round of a tough, two-race stretch that will bring this year’s GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series season to the halfway point. Memorial Day Monday’s timed 2-3/4-hour sprint, which can be seen live on SPEED at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT, will be followed five short days later by the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, at Watkins Glen International, Saturday, June 4.

Last year at Lime Rock, Segal and Assentato finished third in the No. 69 FXDD Mazda as they began to lock down a championship point’s lead they would never lose. They return to Lime Rock with a repeat title in mind and far from out of championship contention, but the circumstances are decidedly different this year.

“We definitely find ourselves in a different situation than we did last year entering the race at Lime Rock,” Segal said. “Last year we were out front and in control, so we could decide how aggressive we needed to be depending on where our closest championship rivals were running in each race to maintain a safe points cushion. This year we're in a very tight battle for points.”

The No. 69 FXDD/SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 GT team is currently a season-high seventh in the Rolex Series GT Team Championship standings with 99 points, but only 17 points out of first place and in a close group of six teams that are tied or within a few points of each other.

“While we're seventh currently, we are only four points out of second,” Segal said. “The first-place BMW M3 has a sizable points lead, and arguably the dominant car currently, so they're definitely looking good at this point. We had a great showing at Lime Rock last year though, and I'm hoping that the tight twisty nature of the track plays into the strength of the RX-8.”

Segal will be looking for a win and maximum points at Lime Rock, but next weekend’s Sahlen’s Six Hour endurance race will also be top of mind for all on the No. 69 team this Monday.

“This point of the season is really nerve-wracking, especially because of the short turnaround time to Watkins Glen right after Lime Rock,” Segal said. “It means you have to be a little more careful because a crash at Lime Rock could ruin two races easily. We have a lot of optimism heading into this Northeastern swing, and I know that Emil and I both love these two tracks. While this is a grueling part of the season for everyone, I know that I always have a little extra enthusiasm and energy when I get to the paddock at Watkins Glen for a race, so we are ready for the challenge.”

Segal won his first GRAND-AM Rolex Series race with Assentato and Nick Longhi in the 2008 Sahlen’s Six Hour and would love nothing more than to head back to New York with the momentum of a Lime Rock win on Monday.

“I'm determined to win a race before the end of the season,” said Segal, who has a best finish of second with Assentato in the March race at Miami this season. “I've won at least one race every season I've been in the Rolex Series, so that has to be a goal of ours.”

Although the current rules tend to favor the more powerful GT competition, Segal believes the Mazdas may be a little more in the hunt at Lime Rock.

“Our biggest deficit seems to always be straight-line speed, so the fact that Lime Rock doesn't have a long straight should help our car,” Segal said. “I like Lime Rock for its fast flowing nature. A lot of the corners are third, fourth, even fifth gear, so that makes the driving challenge more interesting. The downhill is always exciting, especially when you have the faster Daytona Prototypes sharing the track.”

A unique one-day event, practice, qualifying and the featured Memorial Day Classic race will all take place at Lime Rock Park on Monday, May 30.