NASCAR/Grand-Am Teleconference Transcript: Jeff Segal, Emil Assentato and Sylvain Tremblay September 8, 2010 An interview with JEFF SEGAL EMIL ASSENTATO SYLVAIN TREMBLAY J.J. O'MALLEY: Welcome to this week's edition of the NASCAR ...
NASCAR/Grand-Am Teleconference Transcript: Jeff Segal, Emil Assentato and Sylvain Tremblay
September 8, 2010
An interview with
J.J. O'MALLEY: Welcome to this week's edition of the NASCAR Grand-Am teleconference with the preview of the Rolex Series GT championship which will be decided Saturday in the season-ending Utah 250 at Salt Lake City.
We're pleased to be joined by the participants in the battle the for championship, Emil Assentato and Jeff Segal, drivers of the No. 69 FXDD Mazda RX-8, who enter the season finale eight points ahead of teammate and SpeedSource owner Sylvain Tremblay, driver of the No. 70 Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8.
Emil, you ended the 2009 season on a high note by winning the Utah 250 and brought that momentum that's carried through 2010. How big was last year's victory and what role did it take in your team stepping up as a championship contender this season?
EMIL ASSENTATO: Last year's victory at Utah was quite exciting. I'm sure you recall we were in the hunt for the lead. Jeff was in the seat. We were third. First two guys had a big fight, ended up knocking each other out, we came in first.
That was a great impetus for our team. On those luck situations, we always felt were always n the recipient of bad luck. It turned good that day. If you remember, two of the last four races last year we won. The team really walked away from the end of '09 looking at 2010 as a chance to finish in the top three in points. It has been really exciting. The team got enthused by the possibility we could actually be a competitor for the win this year.
J.J. O'MALLEY: Emil, you're leading the points for the ProAm driver award, the Bob Akin Award. How big is that and how big would winning the championship be to you in your career?
EMIL ASSENTATO: The championship of course is bigger than the Aiken award, but the Aiken award is really exciting. To be among this group of drivers, amateur and pro, to be able to compete at this level and still find it exciting after all these years of racing, it's something that's hard to believe that's happening to me. I'm so excited about it.
The championship, that's beyond any of our expectations. Of course, we haven't won it yet and we may not win it. But SpeedSource will win it, that's for sure. That's really an exciting part of this. The team has just excelled and performed and had everything work in its direction. Good luck and even the bad luck hasn't worked so bad this year. We're thrilled. I'm really thrilled. It's just a dream season.
J.J. O'MALLEY: Thank you very much.
Jeff, you can ramp up the championship by finishing fourth. That seems to be your number this year. The 69 car has finished fourth or better since placing 16th in the Rolex 24. You've been fourth in five of the last six races. What are your thoughts entering the season finale?
JEFF SEGAL: I think obviously that bodes well for us because fourth place has been a position that we've been able to achieve even when we haven't had the greatest of races. That had been frustrating earlier in the year that we seemed sort of trapped there, couldn't break back onto the podium.
It's reassuring that fourth place would seal the deal for us. At the same time we can't change much of our operations here because we can't afford to take any risk and come in fifth or sixth or seventh and watch the 70 have a really big race.
Really we need to go for the win. If it means we end up second, third, fourth, what have you, that's that. I'm confident. I think our car is really good. Our team is doing well. All the cars have been great all season. Reliability has been great. Utah is a strong track for us. Emil and I are ready. Our whole crew is ready. It should be a great race.
J.J. O'MALLEY: Sylvain Tremblay, congratulations on accomplishing goal number one for 2010, that has been winning the GT manufacturers championship. You have three Mazdas under your SpeedSource canopy in the paddock. On pit road your three team appear to be operating independently. How tough is it to be able to step back from your ownership role to concentrate on the 70 car and the battle for the championship?
SYLVAIN TREMBLAY: Obviously, I've done it for multiple years. I'm used to wearing different hats. The team owner in me is extremely proud. Like Emil and Jeff have said, no matter what happens, SpeedSource wins the championship. The way the cars are prepared in the shop, everybody works on all the cars. When we get to the racetrack, we all race for our particular numbers. The guys that are working on the 68 have something to do with the 69. No matter what, we've had one car that does extremely well at just about every event. I'm proud of the group. We have beared down and are in a position to win a championship.
Emil and Jeff have done the work. Emil ended having some good luck. They made their luck. Jeff is driving extremely well. They've been a formidable competitor. Their worst race was Daytona. From then on they've been on a tear. We've had more of an up-and-down season. That is fine. We've been lucky at some, unlucky at others. That's part of it as Emil hinted to. For us, having the depth of the team so each team can do its own pit calls, its own equipment. They're not relying upon having one guy out of the way. That's what's given us results consistently among all three cars.
We built four brand-new cars. All four of those including the one from Dempsey Racing ended up winning a race this year. All three of our cars have won under our awning. It speaks volumes about the depth and dedication of all the employees here at SpeedSource, the support we get from Mazda to put a competitive effort that is equal and that's fair.
The way it is going to end up at the race, Jeff is going for the win. We're going for the win. I kind of chuckled when he said that because I knew that's what he was going to say. He's not going to just lay back and collect the championship, he's going to run as hard if not harder because he's trying to win it and so are we.
It's a good position to be in. It's going to be a fun weekend. We're looking forward to it. Because no matter what happens, the team owner in me wins, the driver would love to win. You know what, if my good friends Jeff and Emil end up winning it, so be it. I'm proud for the efforts and especially proud for Emil that this many years in his career, which is three or four now, he's still right up front and would be a well-deserving champion if he does win.
J.J. O'MALLEY: A word about your codriver. Jonathan Bomarito took ill at Montreal. We're wondering how he's doing and will he be back for Miller.
SYLVAIN TREMBLAY: He will be back for Miller. He is back training. He came down with pneumonia during the race. Really started out the day before. Saturday, weren't sure how he was going to do. He ended up taking a helicopter ride off the island and back on the island. A heck of a way to see the beautiful City of Montreal. He is doing fine. He's a hundred percent for Miller, and we're going to go for the win in our Castrol Syntec Mazda.
J.J. O'MALLEY: We'll open it up for questions.
Q: As we've gone through the 2010 season, we've seen all the people on this call. It looks like you guys are very relaxed both going into the car and coming out of the car. Can you talk just a little bit about your level of confidence, certainly on the manufacturer's side is well-founded, but your level of confidence in the team and what gives you that confidence all year long leading up to this, our last race of 2010.
EMIL ASSENTATO: It's very clear to me that the cars are prepared well and we're going into these races with well-prepared equipment. I have a lot of confidence in the team's ability to perform under pressure. They've proven it over the years. They've been together for three years now, so we have a very well-oiled team. Jeff has done a spectacular job at the end of the race, charging when he has needed, to not put the car in any more risk than he has to in any given situation. From my perspective, it makes my job easy. I just need to get the car into Jeff's hands.
I feel the car is capable of winning any race. Sometimes we miss the setup. I think we have a well-oiled team that understands what it takes to get the car in and out of the pits, to make sure it runs the entire race, to be properly set up. We make sure the car is set up at the edge in terms of performance. I feel confident when I get in the car that this car is going to be there at the end and is going to give us the finish that we really need.
Maybe that's why we seem kind of relaxed. Jeff is relaxed. I'm relaxed. The whole team seems kind of relaxed. Maybe it's because we didn't expect to be leading the championship also. I'm not sure.
Q: Sylvain, these are done in the SpeedSource shops. Last year you made the trip to Japan. I know how much pride there is at Mazda with what you do with them. How much support, direct or otherwise, comes from overseas when you guys work your way through a year racing?
SYLVAIN TREMBLAY: Quite a bit. It's surprising. I'll tell you a story. When they redesigned the RX-8 for 2009, the head designer, his nickname is Speedy, actually asked us what would make a better racecar for the Grand-Am rule book. So some of the stying cues as the car got redesigned for 2009/2010 came directly that would benefit for the racecar. So Mazda gets it. Mazda is a sports car company. They do a fabulous job. It's not only pride, they want the products to do well.
The rotary engine is unique. It is what drives our program. That is what sets Mazda apart from other manufacturers. They take huge pride. When we toured the rotary factory where they build all these engines, you could see the pride in all the technicians that hand build all these engines.
They're involved from a technical standpoint, design standpoint and also from a support and emotional support standpoint. To bring this championship to that group of people, the group of Mazda North America in Irvine, California, is a huge accomplishment for the team, for everybody involved, with SpeedSource, our vendors and sponsors. It's a great achievement for us.
Q: Jeff and Emil, since about early to mid last year, it seem it is like the 69 car especially has made a pretty nice jump forward. What is that attributed to?
JEFF SEGAL: I think the biggest change is just in sort of the gelling of the team. We've always had the equipment. Two years ago when we won at the Six Hours at the Glen, we won in pretty convincing fashion. That kind of convinced everybody, including us, we could contend for those race wins.
It was over a year before we got back to Victory Lane from there. We had some growing pains there. We always had the car. We always had the team. Emil and I as drivers have always been capable. Not like anything changed there. I think it's everybody getting more comfortable, everybody getting polished in their role, in terms of the setups, really having a good procedure for how we approach the weekend, what we're trying to get out of the car in the races to have a faster racecar.
In terms of driving, for me, there was a big learning curve in the Rolex Series where I kind of had to take a couple steps back and stop trying so hard, stop trying to be the fastest guy on the racetrack all the time, not taking those unnecessary risks, try to play it a little smarter.
I think Emil and I have gotten more comfortable in the car, faster. Our pit strategy has gotten better as we gain experience. The crew has gotten better as they learn the car, what needs to be changed on the car to make sure we have a reliable package.
I think it's that time together. We needed that time to grow and gel together. Now we're a really strong team. The organization runs well. Everybody knows their job. Everyone knows what they should and shouldn't do.
In the race, the biggest thing has been executing, pulling that off. They've done a really good job, everybody, this year.
Continued in part 2