Jeff Segal set for Road America Debut in the No. 69 FXDD/SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 GT at this Weekend’s GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series 250 Driven by VISIT FLORIDA
Reigning GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT Co-Champion Jeff Segal will make his first career race start at Road America this weekend, co-driving the No. 69 FXDD Mazda RX-8 GT with teammate and fellow titleist Emil Assentato in Saturday’s Rolex Sports Car Series 250 driven by VISIT Florida.
“Despite a good bit of seat time at Road America, I've never actually raced there,” said Segal, who partnered Assentato in winning last year’s GT title. “I've been there for testing and practice and for some driver coaching over the past few years. It's one of the classic road courses in the country and has an exciting mix of high speeds and natural elevation change. The track should lend itself to great racing, with good drafting and passing opportunities to keep things interesting. Since I've been racing in GRAND-AM, Road America has not been featured on the calendar, so I'm really excited that we finally have a chance to bring our series to this track.”
Although Saturday will mark the first time Segal will take a green flag at Road America in competition, some of his earliest four-wheel experiences occurred both on the track and on the surrounding acreage of the legendary facility.
“My first time at Road America was actually when my father was racing in the Ferrari Historic Challenge Series in a Ferrari 308 GT,” Segal said. “I wasn't old enough to drive but I road in the passenger seat for most of the practice sessions, so I got to learn the track pretty well. I also remember Road America having a large infield with plenty of paved access roads and a relaxed golf cart policy. I definitely honed my driving skills on the team golf cart throughout the weekend. I wasn't racing, but I was learning to drive all the same!”
Segal, now 26, began competitive driving himself as a teenager and made his first GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT start in 2003. His breakout year came in 2008 when he won the pole at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen and then co-drove the No. 69 to its first victory with Assentato and Nick Longhi. The FXDD team has been a top GT contender ever since and the mission now is to defend 2010’s hard-earned championship.
Segal, Assentato and the No. 69 FXDD/SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 GT team currently rank sixth in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT Team Championship standings with 150 points. The team is just one point out of fifth place and only 15 markers behind the current class leaders heading to Road America. Segal and his teammates finished third one race ago at The Glen and second last March in Miami, but some disappointing results at Daytona, Virginia and Lime Rock have kept the No. 69 squad from controlling the points race like they did last year.
“We've had a rocky start to the season, and my biggest disappointment is that we haven't been able to enjoy the consistency of results that led us to the championship last year,” Segal said. “Tough breaks at Virginia and Lime Rock have really hurt our points total, and the podiums at Homestead and Watkins Glen are a consolation, but not enough to satisfy our team. There is no doubt that we're headed in the right direction with the Mazda RX-8 GT. We're making inroads on the setup of the car, but without the opportunity to test, these things take time.”
A bonus this weekend is a rare test day at Road America that precedes the official three-day event schedule on Wednesday. A similar test is scheduled the day before the next race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in early July.
“I'm looking forward to the promoter test day at Road America and at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca as well to provide a little bit of extra track time to refine the car,” Segal said. “While Watkins Glen showed that we haven't lost the ability to run with the lead pack, it was disheartening to watch some of the V8 machinery drive away from us like we were in a different class. Hopefully the latest rules changes will continue to bring the GT field closer together, and we can continue to close the gap to the front in the second half of the year.”
This weekend’s event is a Saturday doubleheader with the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
“I enjoy running with NASCAR,” Segal said. “It adds a lot of excitement to the weekend and we definitely appreciate the added crowd that comes with their race. Anytime we get to put on a show in front of a large enthusiastic crowd, it’s a win-win.”
Segal also appreciates Road America’s loyal fan base.
“The fans at Road America are also typically very knowledgeable as well, so it should be a great time,” Segal said. “The only real change that comes with the NASCAR shared weekends is that our race is shorter in distance, two hours this weekend. Generally the 69 seems to excel in these sprint races, so that's something to look forward to as well. I'm looking forward to seeing the Nationwide cars take on such a high speed circuit, but especially to try and put on an even better show in our GT car.”