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Grand Am GT - Segal And Assentato Recover For 10th-Place Finish At Lime Rock

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LAKEVILLE, May 31, 2011: Just two corners into the Memorial Day Classic Monday afternoon at Lime Rock Park, the No. 69 FXDD/SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 GT of Jeff Segal and Emil Assentato was stuck in the mud and grass and going nowhere fast.

That wasn’t enough to keep reigning GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT-class co-champion Segal and his teammates down, however, as they recovered for a top-10 finish in the 2-3/4-hour timed sprint race on the tight and tricky 1.50-mile Lime Rock road course.

Assentato had a good start in the No. 69 Mazda and was just exiting Lime Rock’s Big Bend section on lap one when he and the rest of the field came upon an incident involving several Daytona Prototypes. While some of the GT competitors were able to drive through the scene unscathed, Assentato was swept into the melee and bounced off course. The race went yellow but it took several laps for the safety crews to get the No. 69 back to the pits where Segal and the FXDD were already discussing strategies for the remainder of the race.

“It’s really unfortunate that our day was ruined from the second corner,” Segal said. “A couple of Daytona Prototypes got together and spun and created sort of a stack-up effect. By the time Emil got there, cars were going everywhere, and he got tagged by a Porsche and got sent off in the grass and got stuck. So we started the day I think four laps down, or three laps down, and you know it’s going to be a tough day from there.”

The team even briefly discussed using the race as a test opportunity after any realistic chance of a victory, or even top-five finish, was out of the question just minutes after the green flag dropped.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Segal said. “I kind of asked the guys if we maybe we treat this as a test session to help ourselves in later races this year, but they didn’t want to do that, they wanted to try and salvage a good finish.”

Segal took over after Assentato drove just over the race’s first hour and brought the No. 69 to the checkered flag.

“Ultimately to crack the top 10 with that was a good day,” Segal said. “It was encouraging that the car was really fast. We were as fast or faster than the leaders maybe the whole race, so that’s good, maybe more frustrating that we did have a good car, but maybe it shows some promise for the next few races.”

Despite the Lime Rock setback, the No. 69 FXDD/SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 GT team ranks seventh in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT Team Championship standings with 120 points. They are just eight points behind the third-place team and only 21 points shy of first place.

“The championship definitely took a dent today,” Segal said. “I would certainly say there is a long way to go, but from here we are looking for race wins if we can.”

The Memorial Day Classic was 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. Monday’s race will be followed five short days later by the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, at Watkins Glen International, Saturday, June 4. The six-hour endurance race starts at 1 p.m. ET and can be seen in same-day coverage at 4:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. PT, Saturday, June 4.