Segal Returns to Victory Lane at Watkins Glen Strong day for Mazda as all four RX-8 machines lead, with Segal taking checkered flag (Watkins Glen, NY) 8 August 09--Jeff Segal and Emil Assentato scored their first Rolex Sports Car Series victory...
Segal Returns to Victory Lane at Watkins Glen
Strong day for Mazda as all four RX-8 machines lead, with Segal taking checkered flag
(Watkins Glen, NY) 8 August 09--Jeff Segal and Emil Assentato scored their first Rolex Sports Car Series victory of the 2009 season with a strong drive in the No. 69 FXDD Mazda RX-8 on Friday night at Watkins Glen. The Crown Royal 200 win was the second visit to Gatorade Victory Circle at the famed upstate New York circuit for Segal and Assentato, as the two triumphed along with co-driver Nic Longhi in the 6 Hours of the Glen last season.
The Friday night Glen victory followed an intense two-hour battle as the GT Class raced the sprint event alongside the Daytona Prototypes for the first time in three years, making every lap a high speed traffic jam on the 2.45-mile "short course."
Assentato qualified the RX-8 sixth on the grid next to 2008 KONI Challenge Champion and fellow Mazda RX-8 pilot Joe Foster. Assentato had a strong start to the race, moving up to run in the top five before a caution flag slowed the field just shy of the 30-minute mark. SpeedSource elected to keep him behind the wheel to ensure that he was able to score full points for the race.
That decision was vindicated just minutes later as a second caution slowed the field and set the stage for a driver change as Segal took over.
Segal, who also has a Rolex GT class pole and several KONI Challenge podiums to his credit on the track, moved up quickly to fight for the lead with the current GT class championship points leader. But the high-speed circuit is one that he's long favored, and by the end of the shortest race of the Rolex season, Segal was controlling the pace as he moved out to a one-second margin at the checkered flag.
"Everything that needed to go well did so today, and it was a great race," Segal said. "Last year's victory here was a long time coming. We knew the car was good when the SpeedSource team unloaded it this weekend, and everything went great today. Emil drove a great first stint and the SpeedSource guys were spot on with strategy and the stops so it was a team effort all around."
The Daytona Prototype race provided some thrilling moments for the SPEED cameras, but the battle was no less intense in GT.
"I went up the esses side by side at one point with Dirk (Werner/No. 87 driver), and we very nearly touched," said Segal after the podium ceremonies. "But he's a very clean driver and we made it through just fine. It was very close--there are a lot of guys you wouldn't want to run that close to but we trust each other and it was a really good fight. The car was just so hooked up that I had all the confidence I needed and it was great to come out on top tonight."
With six top-six results in the last six rounds of Rolex competition, the SpeedSource-prepared Mazda RX-8 has shown typical Mazda speed and reliability for the 2007 KONI Challenge Champion, and Segal is looking ahead to a strong close to the 2009 season as the series stages the final race of the year in his adopted hometown, Miami.
"We had a tough start to the year with a couple of unfortunate results, but we've really been consistent and fast in the second half of the year," said Segal. "It's great for the points to be racing in the top five race after race, but getting to the top of the podium is so much more satisfying and now I'm just hoping we can do it again before the season ends!"
Segal will return to GT Class race action in three weeks time as the Rolex Series visits Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal on August 26th.