Grand Am GT - Segal Wins At Elkhart Lake
ELKHART LAKE, Jun. 24, 2012: Jeff Segal scored a series-leading third GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series victory of the season with co-driver Emil Assentato in the No. 69 AIM Autosport Team FXDD Ferrari 458 Italia Grand Am Saturday at Road America to further expand his GT Championship lead for the fourth consecutive race.
After qualifying was rained out on Friday, the No. 69 AIM Autosport Team FXDD Ferrari started today’s race from the pole when the grid was determined by championship point standings. Assentato led the first five laps, ducked in the pits for a strategic early fuel stop, and then retook the lead later in his stint before handing off to Segal.“It was a pretty exciting race from my standpoint,” Segal said. “Emil did a great job keeping the car up front. When you get the car in first place you better bring it back in first place, that was sort of the goal, and he did it, and led the race twice.”
Segal in turn led the race’s final 13 laps and he and Assentato, who set the pace for a total of 11 laps, were the top lap leaders of the day.
“It was perfect but it was a little bit of a nail-biter at the beginning of the race,” Segal said. “We played our hand very early. The first caution came out and we ducked into the pits for fuel and nobody else did. So we were all alone on that strategy and that sort of set us on the program that we were on. In these two hour races – I said it before the race and I will say it again – the strategy is more important than the speed of the car.”
While the Ferrari appeared to some to be a dominant car, Segal’s quickest race lap ranked only sixth fastest and the win came down to great race strategy by AIM Autosport Team FXDD.
“We had a great car all weekend but with the changing track conditions, with some of the NASCAR rubber that gets laid down, and it being a lot cooler, our car went away,” Segal said. “We didn’t have what we had earlier in practice, but we played it out on strategy. The last restart was interesting. I didn’t think we would be able to get away from the BMW and Mazda that were pressuring me, but fortunately the guys behind all started fighting and it let us open up enough of a gap. It worked out perfectly.”
Segal and his teammates also dodged a late low fuel scare.
“The biggest close call we had was fuel,” Segal said. “We probably couldn’t have gone another lap so that last yellow was absolutely critical. Right now that’s our biggest deficit right now. We just can’t run as long as some of the other cars. That put us on our early-pit strategy, that we thought would be a handicap, but ultimately the way it worked out it was a positive for today.”
For the fourth consecutive race, Segal, Assentato and the No. 69 Autosport Team FXDD Ferrari increased their points leads in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT Championship standings. Segal and Assentato now have a season-high 21 point lead in the Rolex Series GT Driver Championship standings while the No. 69 AIM Autosport Team FXDD Ferrari 458 Italia Grand Am leads the Rolex Series GT Team Championship by the same margin.
Segal and the No. 69’s third victory is also the most for any team and driver combination in the 2012 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series, GT and Daytona Prototype combined, in the year’s first seven races. Their previous wins came in March’s Grand Prix of Miami and last month at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
Segal and his teammates also have a pair of runner-up showings this season at Barber Motorsports Park and earlier this month at Mid-Ohio. Combined with the three victories, Segal, Assentato and the No. 69 team’s five podium appearances are tied with the No. 01 TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing Daytona Prototype team for the most in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series this season.
Segal doesn’t plan to make any changes to what has been a highly successful approach so far to his 2012 racing season.
“We are going to make sure we do exactly the same thing at the next race,” Segal said. “So, same socks, same underwear, same suit, same everything because right now it is going so well I am afraid to change anything”
Next up for Jeff Segal and the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series is the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, June 29 – July 1. The featured six-hour race can be seen live on SPEED, Sunday, July 1, at 11 a.m. EDT/8 a.m. PDT.
“Road America is what I would consider a 'classic' track when you look at racing in North America,” Segal said. “The layout is long and sweeping with lots of elevation change and a long lap distance. Unlike many of the modern tracks, you can tell that Road America's configuration just ran through the natural terrain, and it gives you a real sense that you're going somewhere while you take a lap. There isn't any artificial elevation change nor are there any chicanes or gimmicky corners, so the track has a great rhythm to it and I think all the drivers appreciate that.
“In a lot of ways it is similar to Watkins Glen, especially with the high average lap speed, however The Glen is unique with the close proximity of those famous blue Armco barriers which really make you think twice about exceeding the limit.”