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Grand Am GT - Segal Clinches 2012 Championship

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MONTEREY, Sep. 10, 2012: Jeff Segal clinched the 2012 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT Championship with a second-place finish Sunday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the No. 69 AIM Autosport Team FXDD Ferrari 458 Italia Grand Am, earning his second GT title in the last three years with co-driver Emil Assentato.

The 2012 championship is the crowning moment of a successful season of competition for Segal, Assentato and AIM Autosport Team FXDD, and a triumphant return for Ferrari to the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT division. A class-leading three GT race wins and an unmatched record of no finish lower than eighth all year – including seven total podium results in 12 races – let Segal and his teammates seal the 2012 championship one race before the season-ending event at Lime Rock Park at the end of the month.

“It’s a fantastic feeling to have set a goal at the beginning of the season to have worked very systematically toward achieving that goal.” Segal said. “One race before the end of the season we accomplished what we set out to do, which was to win the championship with Ferrari in its return to the Rolex Series. There is still the manufacturers’ championship that we are fighting for at Lime Rock but a large part of the mission is accomplished.”

After Assentato turned in a typically solid stint in the Ferrari in the race’s opening hour, Segal took over and was soon contending for the victory. He moved to the race lead, set the pace for 16 laps, and managed to hold on to second despite a late splash-and-go pit stop for fuel less than 10 minutes from the finish. Segal then held off a challenge from Porsche driver Andy Lally for his second runner-up showing in a row and fourth this season. Segal also finished second one race ago in Montreal.

“It’s a great feeling,” Segal said. “It was a really, really hard-fought race, and I guess it is fitting that it ended like that in terms of clinching this deal. I think the perception has been that we have had an easy time this season but the reality has been quite a bit different. We have been fighting for everything, and this race, in order for us to seal it up before Lime Rock, we had a last lap battle that we needed to win, and we did.”

Lally, who like Segal, is one of less than 10 active multiple champions in GRAND-AM Road Racing, couldn’t manage to make it by the No. 69 Ferrari. Segal also joined with Assentato and FXDD in winning the 2010 GT championship in addition to Segal’s 2007 GRAND-AM Continental Tire Challenge GS (Grand Sport) Championship. Segal now has three GRAND-AM Road Racing titles won in the last six years on his resume at 27 years old.

“He was behind me, he roughed me up a little bit, we had a couple of really close calls, totally alongside me twice and we had to hang on to it,” Segal said. “There was contact at many, many, many stages throughout my stint. Nobody was giving an inch today, the season is winding down, you have a lot of cars and teams that are hungry to get out of here with a win that haven’t gotten one, so everybody is fighting really hard. We had contact on three of the four corners on our car. It is really a testament to how well built that car is as the Ferrari 458 is not only fast, it is tough, and the AIM Autosport crew did a great job of reinforcing those corners and making sure that we can take those knocks and keep going.”

Clinching the title early at Laguna Seca was an added bonus for team partner Motorola that was racing with the No. 69 AIM Autosport Team FXDD Ferrari 458 Italia Grand Am team for the second time this year. Motorola first partnered with Segal and the No. 69 in July at the inaugural Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“It’s great to have Motorola onboard for such a big weekend for us,” Segal said. “This is definitely a defining weekend for the team. All season we have been proving that just because it is the first year running Ferrari doesn’t mean we have to go through a steep learning curve. We have got some really good people, some really good knowledge and really good support, and having Motorola as part of that support has been critical to the success that we have had this year. It is great to share this weekend with them.”

Segal and his teammates took the GT class points lead in April with their first win of the season at the Grand Prix of Miami and have never lost it. They clinched the championship with a season-high 39-point advantage to take both the driver title for Segal and Assentato and team honors for AIM Autosport Team FXDD and the No. 69 Ferrari with 364 points.