Jeff Segal, Co-Driver Emil Assentato, and AIM Autosport Team FXDD Win First Race for Ferrari 458 Italia Grand Am In Wet and Wild Grand Prix of Miami
First Win In Just Third Race for AIM/FXDD Partnership Moves Team and Drivers into Championship Lead
MIAMI, Fla. (April 29, 2012) – Jeff Segal joined co-driver Emil Assentato and AIM Autosport Team FXDD in scoring the first victory for the new Ferrari 458 Italia Grand Am on Sunday in a wet and wild Grand Prix of Miami.
The victory, the second in three years at Homestead-Miami Speedway for Segal and Assentato, was also the first for the No. 69 AIM Autosport Team FXDD Ferrari 458 Italia Grand Am in just the team’s third race. Combined with a second-place finish one race ago at Barber Motorsports Park and an eighth-place showing in January’s season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, the No. 69 Ferrari team and its drivers have also taken an early-season lead in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT Team and Driver Championship standings.
“It was a great day for us,” Segal said. “We’ve put a lot of hard work into this program, getting this new Ferrari up to speed, and there’s just been a lot of work behind the scenes by Ferrari and Michelotto, and a lot of hard work by AIM Autosport Team FXDD to adapt to this car. I’m really happy for all of them.”
Assentato started the race in a heavy downpour that never really subsided and eventually forced GRAND-AM Road Racing officials to call the race early nearly an hour early. Segal took over for Assentato at the race’s 45-minute mark, quickly moved up to fourth and then zeroed in on the race leaders.
“The race was really, really difficult,” Segal said. “We kind of saw that in practice this morning, that it was going to be interesting, but the car was as good as it could be. Our job was to keep the car on the track, protect the car and we did that. We weren’t off the track, not even one time, and I just watched as cars flew off the road in front of me and hit each other.”
Segal made the winning pass for the lead on lap 41, of what turned out to be just a 54-lap race, with many of the final circuits run under caution before the early checkered flag.
“I had a couple of good battles and fortunately the timing worked out that we made one pretty critical pass right at the end, right before the rain rolled in,” Segal said. “I’m really, really excited. I’m excited about the direction this program is heading. Obviously, we have a lot of races left to go, but I think everybody is comfortable with the car, we’re comfortable with each other, so we’re hoping that this is the start of a good run this season.”
Segal, a 2007 University of Miami Business School graduate, stayed in Florida after earning his Bachelor of Business Administration degree and has always considered Homestead-Miami Speedway a home track. He won his first Ferrari Challenge at Homestead in 2003 when he was just 17. More recently he and Assentato co-drove to a GT victory at Homestead-Miami in 2010 and finished second in last year’s Grand Prix of Miami.
“I definitely consider this one of my home tracks and I’m a little greedy in that sense,” said Segal, who is originally from the Philadelphia area. “I have some home tracks up North and some down here, and we’ve had some success at Homestead-Miami before. It’s a track that Emil and have had success at and both like.”
Segal expected to be competitive this weekend in any conditions.
“We put together a good car and drove it to the front in the race but I think, wet or dry, we were pretty confident that we would be at the front,” Segal said. “It’s great to be here, great to win at Homestead-Miami again. We’re looking forward to this next string of races that come up pretty quickly, hoping to carry a little bit of momentum.”
Sunday’s win also had some personal significance for Segal as his father Bob Segal was attending his first race of the year.
“This is the first race for my Dad back at the track,” Segal said. “He was at Daytona and took ill up there, so he’s missed a couple of races and I’m glad he could be down here. He made a day trip down here and it is pretty important that he’s here for our first win as a team, first win with this car, and it’s just fantastic.”