Jeff Segal Shooting For Second-Straight Podium at New Jersey Motorsports Park and in 2011 Sunday with No. 69 FXDD/SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 GT Team
Shooting for consecutive top-three podium finishes at New Jersey Motorsports Park (NJMP) and in the 2011 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series season, reigning GT champions Jeff Segal, his teammate Emil Assentato and the No. 69 FXDD/SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 GT team head to NJMP’s Thunderbolt Raceway this weekend primed for their first victory of the year in the American Red Cross 250.
Segal and Assentato finished third in the No. 69 FXDD Mazda 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 this season came last March at the Grand Prix of Miami.
“The Mazda Raceway race was our best in a while, if not our best race this season,” Segal said. “I was really encouraged that I felt like we put together the whole weekend. We were strong in practice, we tuned the car well to boost Emil to a fantastic qualifying performance, and then we executed as a team. The performance didn't surprise me at all, as I think we're capable of this sort of performance each and every weekend.”
Adding some consistency to the pace and teamwork displayed at Mazda Raceway in the year’s final stretch of races could put Segal in a position to defend the 2011 GT title. Scoring at least one victory this season, as Segal and the No. 69 team have done every year since 2008, is also a top priority as the racing calendar winds down.
“We haven't been as consistent as we'd like this season, and I think the goal now is to examine the strong parts of the Mazda Raceway weekend and try to repeat it for the final four races of the year,” Segal said. “I'd like to think that if we can put together four more strong weekends, we can net a win before the year is over, and that's the goal.”
The strong performance last year at New Jersey, and one race ago at Mazda Raceway, has Segal encouraged but still realistic. The most recent podium was also the second in the past three races for Segal and the No. 69 team after finishing third at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen last month.
“I'm confident heading into NJMP, but we're not letting our recent success go to our heads yet,” Segal said. “We have had great races two of the last three times out and ended up with a much needed podiums, but we still didn't have the speed that the winning Porsche showed in the final run to the checkered flag at both races.”
Mazdas ran competitively with the competition at Mazda Raceway and Segal thinks New Jersey may suit the RX-8 GTs as well, even if GRAND-AM’s current rules package may not.
“I think that New Jersey's tight and twisty nature should also lend itself to the Mazda's strengths, but I expect the Camaros and BMW M3 to be strong as well, since I expect that their torque advantage will help them out of the slower corners,” Segal said.
With extreme humidity and scorching temperatures in the high 90s and even 100-degree range predicted, the American Red Cross 250 could come down to a race of survival in every respect.
“Last year we had a good run at NJMP, and a lot of the strategy there was to stay out of trouble,” Segal said. “We did this while other stronger cars faltered and fell by the wayside, and I think our strategy will be much the same this year. This track is tight and tricky, and I expect the weather to be hot and very challenging in the cockpit. We'll shoot to be there at the end, and see where that puts us.”
The strong Mazda Raceway showing put Segal and his team in their best championship points position of the year. The No. 69 FXDD/SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 GT now 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.
m NJMP. “I only left the area when I went to college in Miami, and since graduating, I've spent a lot of my time away from the track in Philadelphia for work at Algar Ferrari Maserati of Philadelphia,” said Segal, who is from Wynnewood, Pa. “Working with brands like Ferrari and Maserati means that you're never far from a race track, and I've had the opportunity to spend a lot of time at NJMP working with various clients as they learn to push their performance street and race cars to the limit. Recently, I've also been working on creating a permanent presence for Algar at NJMP to better serve our customers with technical support at the track, and we'll be starting operations there shortly. My connection to NJMP runs pretty deep, and I'm excited to be racing there. I think that a little local knowledge never hurts, but it will take more than that advantage to keep us at the front this weekend!”
By: jeff segal racing