AUSTIN, Texas (February 28, 2013) – Two-time and reigning GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT Champion Jeff Segal is ready to return to race-winning form at this weekend’s inaugural GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series race at The Circuit of The Americas after a challenging season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona last month with new co-driver Max Papis and the debuting No. 61 R.Ferri AIM Motorsport Racing with Ferrari F458.
Segal started the Rolex 24 in 11th place on the grid in the debuting No. 61 AIM/R.Ferri Ferrari but the team soon encountered in the race’s first hour electrical gremlins that essentially knocked the stellar lineup of Segal and Papis, and co-drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander, out of winning contention. The team recovered – including turning the second fastest lap of the race and the quickest for a Ferrari at 1:48.171 – to crack the top 12 in the late stages only to retire less than two hours from the finish when the electrical woes returned. The No. 61 was classified 21st in the final results.
“Aside from a few issues that were really outside of our control, we showed that we were the team to beat during the race, against some of the best GT teams in the world,” Segal said. “Now we head to Austin to get our season back on track, and to follow through on the promise that we've shown.”
While this weekend’s GRAND-AM of The Americas presented by GAINSCO and TOTAL will be the first in Texas for the Rolex Series and the AIM/R.Ferri team, Segal is already well familiar with the state-of-the-art 3.4-mile circuit. He attended the inaugural Formula 1 event last November and also did some laps there more recently while coaching Ferrari Challenge competitors.
“I've spent some time behind the wheel at COTA over the past few weeks and my impression was that the track is as impressive to the drivers as it is to the spectators,” Segal said. “It is absolutely a first rate facility and the track is very challenging to learn. Austin has also shown that they are an inviting and enthusiastic host city, and I'm sure that this race will be one of the highlights of the season.”
Segal expects the always-tough competition in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT class to be extra intense on the challenging Circuit of The Americas road course.
“I suspect that this track has a little bit for everyone in the GT class, so the racing will be pretty unpredictable,” Segal said. “On the one hand, you have the first segment which is mainly a medium to high speed cornering rhythm section, which probably plays to the strength of our Ferrari.
“Then you have the unbelievably long back straight, where I expect the torque and top speed of the Porsche or the BMW will be strong. The final section is a bit tighter, with a premium on traction and low speed cornering, which may play to the Camaro. And you've got the Audi which showed at Daytona that they probably do all of those sections well! It will be really interesting to see how it plays out in the race, that's for sure, but I wouldn't count us out.”
Segal is a key component in an expanded two Ferrari AIM Autosport effort this year. He and his fellow two-time GT class co-champion Emil Assentato have split ranks with Segal moving into the new No. 61 with Papis. Assentato has stayed on in last year’s championship-winning No. 69 AIM Autosport Team FXDD Racing with Ferrari F458 with new full-time co-driver Anthony Lazzaro.