Jeff Segal Sixth Fastest Friday in No. 69 FXDD/SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 GT at Slick and Sweltering New Jersey Motorsports Park
– Jeff Segal clocked in sixth fastest Friday in the No. 69 FXDD/SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 GT on a slick Thunderbolt Raceway at a sweltering New Jersey Motorsports Park (NJMP) where excessive heat and humidity pushed the temperature to a high of 98 degrees. The heat wave is expected to continue through the weekend, including right up to and during Sunday’s featured American Red Cross 250.
“It was not bad this morning and it definitely was ‘out of the box’ because my first flying lap was one of my fastest laps for the day,” Segal said. “Some of that’s helped by the fact that I have been here quite a bit lately, not in this car, but on the track, so I know where I can push.”
Segal, who is a native of the nearby Philadelphia, considers the NJMP facility one of his home tracks. He has some experience racing on a hot and incredibly slick racing surface at Thunderbolt, a track that also has a reputation for being harsh on tires.
“The tire fall off is really hampering the lap times,” Segal said. “So really, right now, I think you are not necessarily seeing a true representation of who is quick, it comes down to who had new tires.”
The physical demands on drivers in the heat will also be a huge factor in the outcome of Sunday’s race.
“I think it is really difficult to prepare for this heat,” Segal said. “I know everybody seems to have their own little tricks and gimmicks that they use, but up and down the paddock you look and everyone is suffering. It doesn’t matter if you are a driver, on the crew, or a fan, everybody here is really struggling. You go outside, and it is just unbearable. You get in the car, it is just that much worse.”
Being familiar with the summer climate of this region, and some newer experience handling the hot conditions of his second home in Miami, may give Segal an edge in dealing with the seering temperatures this weekend.
“Obviously hydration is a big part of it,” Segal said. “And the fact that I spend my time either here or in Miami, it’s hot in both of those places, I am used to it, but that doesn’t make it any less difficult in the car.”
Segal is the reigning GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT Champion with co-driver Emil Assentato and the No. 69 FXDD Mazda team. They finished third in the No. 69 last July at NJMP and matched their best race result since then with a second-place finish two weeks ago at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The No. 69 team’s first second-place run of this year came last March at the Grand Prix of Miami, Segal’s other “home” track.
The No. 69 FXDD/SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 GT team currently ranks a season-high fourth in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT Team Championship standings with 203 points. The FXDD squad is just four points out of third and only 19 back from the class-leading No. 59 Porsche team.
Final practice and qualifying takes place on Saturday with race-day Sunday beginning with a 30-minute final practice warm-up at 9:30 a.m. before that afternoon’s American Red Cross 250 at 1 p.m.
- Segal has plenty of laps on Thunderbolt. “Thunderbolt is pretty interesting, and has some interesting high speed sections despite not really having any significant elevation changes,” Segal said. “The first year we raced there, without the Turn 3 bypass chicane, things were really exciting, with the first segment of the track having an extremely high average speed. Now with the chicane in place, this section is a little bit slower, and less about bravery. The biggest challenge is probably the fact that the track is really a low-grip surface, so we end up sliding around quite a bit especially as the tires heat up over a stint. Once you lose the peak grip of the tire, you're really just driving on the ragged edge just to keep the car pointed the right direction. That isn't ideal for a driver, but it makes for some interesting racing!”
By: jeff segal racing