Complicated ranking system keeping some good drivers out of a ride.
Sometimes, it comes down to being in the right place at the right time: Sports car racer Jeff Segal was on holiday in Europe when the call came – might he be interested in co-driving a Ferrari at a couple of races in Italy?
As a pro racer, Segal just happened to have his helmet with me, and after a friend delivered his driving suit, he was ready.
Jeff Segal is a good example of how there are more qualified drivers than seats in sports car racing, unless you happen to be able to write a big check. All Segal brings is talent, a proven record (a championship in the Continental Tire series, and two championships in the GT class in the Grand-Am Series, as well as a GT win the the 2014 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, and a very close second at the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring).
He is a good spokesman, presentable, smart, no skeletons in the closet – “an all-around, first-class guy, and a heck of a driver,” says an industry veteran who used to work with Segal.
So why the big gap this year between Sebring, and a last-minute race in Italy? One reason is because Segal is too experienced, too qualified. With the ranking system in sports car racing, where some of the top series require, in certain classes, a mix of pros, amateurs and in-betweens, there seems to be a plethora of drivers in Segal’s situation.
Rankings a concern
The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship is looking at the rankings, as it seems likely there will be some sort of global standard between TUDOR and the World Endurance Championship, and perhaps a re-adjustment of requirements for certain series and classes and races.
As for Segal, “I just want to race,” he says. And later this afternoon he is: He’ll be in the 8Star Motorsports Ferrari F458 Italia with Gianluca Roda ad Paolo Ruberti, both Italians, racing in the WEC six-hours race, lining up against other Ferraris, Aston-Martins and Porsches in the LMGTE Am class at Circuit of the Americas.
As guy with a win and a second in the two most important endurance races in the U.S. this year, Segal is hoping this isn’t his last race of the year, and is working on a deal that would get in into the TUDOR season-ender, Petit Le Mans, at Road Atlanta. Let’s hope it happens, because good drivers, and good racers, whouldn’t be watching from the sidelines.