Strong opening for Segal's 2007 season
Jeff Segal puts in strong performances at Daytona, leaves with top-ten finishes in Rolex and Koni Challenge Series races
Miami, FL (26 February 07)-- Adding to a quickly growing list of accomplishments on his relatively young sports car racing resume, 21-year old Jeff Segal left the Rolex 24 weekend at Daytona with two impressive top-10 finishes behind the wheel of a Mazda RX-8 GT and a BMW M3, in the Grand-Am Rolex Series and Koni Challenge Series respectively.
After a strong rookie season in the 2006 Grand-Am Koni Challenge, Segal has continued his upward progression in 2007 with the call to join co-drivers Emil Assentato, Nick Longhi, and Matt Plumb to pilot the SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 GT in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Despite being knocked out of a possible run to victory when track debris cleared an unwelcome hole in the radiator late in the race, Segal and company rallied to take seventh in the GT class at the finish. The SpeedSource team turned the radiator repairs around quickly, but while the Mazda returned to the track at full-power, the lost laps in the pits dashed hopes of a victory.
"Obviously a top-ten, much less finishing such a difficult race in my first attempt, is something that I can't be too unhappy with," said Segal. "But truthfully, given how well the car performed, I was disappointed that our finishing position didn't reflect what we were capable of. I think we certainly had a podium effort on track, if not a win, but circumstances outside of our control got in the way."
While the race result wasn't exactly what Segal was looking for, he was upbeat about the experience that he gained while running at the front of such a competitive GT-field for the duration of the race. Even more exciting to him, though, is the prospect of competing in more races this season with the Mazda GT program.
"The SpeedSource crew gave us a superb car for the race, and we had all of the tools we needed to win," said Segal. "The Rotary-powered Mazda RX-8 was unbelievably consistent and reliable-- it was as fast at the beginning of the race as it was at the end. The car literally never missed a beat even while running nearly flatout for much of the race.
"Our biggest advantage was how strong the car was at the end of the stint," said Segal. "While the Daytona track layout suits the Porsche top speed over a single flying lap, the guys at Mazda have done a superb job of making the car consistently quick and kind to the tires for many laps. The crew did a great job with strategy and pitstops to keep us in the hunt, and working with such a professional and experienced team was a real pleasure. I can't wait for my next shot behind the wheel, where hopefully we can make up for the Daytona disappointment!"
Segal will be heading South of the Border next weekend for the second round of the 2007 Rolex Sports Car Series, where he will lend a hand to the Mazda GT program off the track with an eye towards making the most of future appearances on the track.
"I'll be in Mexico City as a spotter and working with the data analysis on the car, mainly to keep myself up to date with the program before my next race," said Segal. "Even if I'm not necessarily going to be getting into the car down there, I stand to learn a lot just from being involved in discussions of setup and strategy that I can put to use down the road. The more I understand about how the team works and how the car reacts to changes, the more effective I will be as a driver."
5th place finish in Koni Challenge Fresh From Florida 200 marks strong start to 2007 Championship effort
Besides his limited schedule in the GT class of the Rolex Series, Segal will also be competing full-time in the Koni Challenge Series. He scored a pole position and three podiums in his rookie season, and he looks to build on this experience to challenge for wins and ultimately the championship in 2007.
"To leave Daytona with a 5th place finish is really excellent for Automatic Racing and the start to our championship aspirations this season," said Segal. "The track at Daytona is really not well suited to the BMW M3 at all, so to take a good points haul into the season and some of the natural road courses that are better suited to our package is really promising. I'm very happy with the performance of the car and the team, especially relative to where we were at this point last year."
Sharing driving duties with Automatic Racing team-owner Jep Thornton for the 2007 season in the #09 Fresh From Florida BMW M3, Jeff is confident that the lessons learned last season will pay dividends in 2007.
"Last year I had a few results that were really enjoyable like the pole position and podium runs, but we didn't finish as well in the points as I had hoped," recounts Segal. "This season, our aim is the championship, and while I'd love to finally get that first win in the Koni Challenge series, I know that finishing consistently is the priority to achieve this goal. We'll be looking to be in the hunt every weekend, and to minimize mistakes in all of the races."