No. 69 AIM/FXDD qualifies 10th and set to race with Assentato, Lazzaro, Longhi and recent addition Wilkins while No. 61 AIM/R.Ferri Ferrari qualifies 12th with Segal, Papis, Fisichella and Vilander
DAYTONA BEACH, Florida – The No. 69 AIM Autosport Team FXDD and No. 61 R.Ferri AIM Motorsport Racing with Ferrari F458s qualified both cars in the Top 12 Thursday for their first race as an expanded two-car team at this weekend’s Rolex 24 At Daytona. North America’s premier 24-hour race begins Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
“We have very little left in the car,” Lazzaro said. “It is tough. Today we realized we don’t have the straight-line speed of the Porsches. I was a little disappointed because I was the third quickest Ferrari, just a few tenths off the fastest 458, but as a team we did very good. Jeff is just behind me and we always have a good little personal battle, so it is a lot of fun and, in all honesty, he and Nick Longhi are the reasons I am here anyway. Jeff helps me out quite a bit with this car so I owe a lot of the performance to him I think.”
Segal has moved to the new No. 61 AIM/R.Ferri Ferrari and will contest the full season with fellow GRAND-AM Rolex Series Champion Max Papis. Joining the team for this weekend’s daylong race at Daytona is the all-star duo of Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander, winning prodivision GT drivers at last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. Segal qualified the AIM/R.Ferri Ferrari in 12th after a lap of 1:48.643 (117.964 mph), less than one tenth off its teammate.
Fisichella and Vilander also drove Ferraris in last year’s Rolex 24 At Daytona, with Vilander finishing fifth in his car. Segal qualified second a year ago in the AIM/FXDD Ferrari’s debut and finished eighth in the race co-driving with Assentato, Longhi and Lazzaro.
Fisichella’s background was in Formula 1, where he won three races in a career that spanned more than 200 starts from 1996 to 2009. He switched to sports car racing in 2010 driving several iterations of Ferraris, and looks forward to the opportunity to make his second Rolex 24 start and first with the AIM/R.Ferri team.
“The atmosphere is amazing, just fantastic, and I like the race itself, the paddock and all of the people around,” Fisichella said. “This is my second time here but we only got five hours into the race last year before the car broke. It is good now, I did five laps this morning, the car balance wasn’t too bad and I was P2 when I was driving, so I am pretty happy considering I wasn’t at the test in January.”
Wilkins takes on a more active role than originally anticipated in the No. 69 AIM/FXDD Ferrari. He was called on when Longhi completed some race car testing in Europe during the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test weekend, and will now be part of the four-driver lineup with Cosmo’s unfortunate withdrawal. R. Ferri / AIM Motorosport AIM Autosport Team FXDD RACING WITH FERRARI
Both Ferraris concluded the day with competitive top-four runs in Thursday night practice that ended at 8:00 p.m. EST. Final practice is Friday with this year’s Rolex 24 At Daytona scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. EST local time this Saturday.