DAYTONA BEACH – Two-time reigning GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT Champion Jeff Segal will be looking to add a Rolex 24 At Daytona victory to his accomplished resume this weekend when he joins teammates Max Papis, Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander in the debut race for the new No. 61 R.Ferri AIM Motorsport Racing with Ferrari F458.
“I'm eager to get this big race underway but also to attack the 2013 GT-class championship,” said Segal, who will be competing for his third GT title in four seasons this year. Segal said. “It will really take a perfect race to win but even then you better have a lot of speed as well. We can't afford any issues or incidents but we can't afford to hang back either. To win the Rolex 24 I think you need the correct blend of aggression and speed tempered with good judgment to keep the car out of trouble.”
Segal will run the full 2013 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series season with Papis after competing with co-champion teammate Emil Assentato the last five seasons. Segal and Assentato won both last year’s and the 2010 GT titles but strategically split ranks this year in the expansion of the AIM/FXDD/R.Ferri Racing with Ferrari team to two cars. Assentato returns in the 2012 title-winning No. 69 AIM Autosport Team FXDD Ferrari with new full-season teammate Anthony Lazzaro.
“The Rolex Roar test earlier in January was a really interesting experience for me because it was the first time I've had a fully new team around me in a very long time,” Segal said. “Since 2008 I've driven with Emil Assentato full-time in the GT class and we've often had a core group of people that have remained pretty consistent. Jumping to the R.Ferri/AIM Motorsport effort is a big change for me to be racing against all of them, but a change that I welcome.”
Finnish Ferrari specialist Vilander and veteran former Formula 1 driver Fisichella bring a world-class boost to Segal’s bid for his first Rolex 24 victory. Fulltime teammate Papis also joins Segal as a Rolex Series Champion, taking the 2004 Daytona Prototype title with Scott Pruett, and “Mad Max” also co-drove on the overall Rolex 24 winning team in 2002.
“We've got one of the best driver lineups you could ask for, with Formula 1 experience as well as two Ferrari 'factory drivers,'” Segal said. “And the engineering and technical personnel on the new team are some of the best in the business. At the Roar test we got up to speed reasonably quickly and since then there has been a huge exchange of information aimed at improving every aspect of our performance. It has been a great process to be involved in and I think that our team is ready for the challenge. In the Rolex 24, we'll look to maximize our advantage on braking and high speed cornering and hope that this is enough to compete for the win.”
Overall pace remains a concern for Segal heading into the Rolex 24 but the AIM/R.Ferri team has more information to apply to the solution than they did a year ago.
“Our car has traditionally struggled a bit on the tracks where there is an emphasis on top speed, and Daytona is all about top speed,” Segal said. “Having said that, I know that our car is strong and that we're miles ahead of where we were last year in terms of knowledge of what it takes to make this car go quickly.”