of All-New Ferrari 458 Italia GT Grand Am at 50th Anniversary of Rolex 24 At Daytona
Segal and team make final preparations for landmark race this weekend
Jeff Segal and AIM Autosport Team FXDD return to Daytona International Speedway (DIS) this weekend ready and fully-prepared for the 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona and the debut race of the team’s new Ferrari 458 Italia GT Grand Am. The golden anniversary Rolex 24 event begins this Saturday, January 28, at 3:30 p.m. ET. Live coverage on SPEED starts Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET/11:30 a.m. PT.
Segal is piloting the new Ferrari in a season-long campaign with teammate Emil Assentato, and the 2010 GRAND-AM Rolex Series GT co-champions will be joined once again by Nick Longhi and Anthony Lazzaro for this weekend’s Rolex 24. Despite having previous Rolex 24 experience, and two GRAND-AM titles to his credit, Segal has the same eagerness and excitement of a first-time competitor.
“The Rolex 24 always brings an enormous level of anticipation and excitement for me, but this year seems to be even more than ever,” said Segal, who was also the 2007 Continental Tire Series GS co-champion. “I’m not sure that there is any one reason for this, but instead the combination of a lot of factors. Certainly I’m excited for my race debut in the Ferrari 458 Italia, and excited to get our 2012 championship underway. I think that this year’s race has an unprecedented amount of buzz, and particularly the GT class. There’s over 45 GT cars entered, and I think that there are probably 20 or more cars that you’d have to rank as having a shot at winning based solely on the driver lineups. Taking part in such a phenomenal GT race is really exciting, and it would make winning this race an even bigger accomplishment than any other year.”
Earlier this month, Segal and his teammates participated in the Roar Before the Rolex 24 Test session where the No. 69 clocked in sixth fastest overall in the GT ranks during the three-day test.
“We are dealing with a new car, but we continue to have spectacular technical support from Ferrari and from technical partner Michelotto, coupled with a team of very sharp guys who have worked overtime to overcome their learning curve,” Segal said. “The team has learned so much about this car in such a short period of time, I don’t worry too much about the car being an unknown. I’m confident that we will have the speed to contend for GT honors, but it’s a very long race and we really need to focus on getting through the race with no mistakes, and taking care of the car.”
One of the keys to success at the Rolex 24 At Daytona is having a solid foundation in the crew and an extraordinary group of drivers. Segal trusts his crew and teammates and is optimistic about their chances for a solid run at the podium this weekend.
“Fortunately my co-drivers are all very experienced guys, and I trust that we all understand what needs to be done to win this race,” Segal said. “When you look at the history of this race, all of the winners follow what amounts to a pretty simple race strategy: stay out of trouble, stay out of the pits, take care of the car, and keep turning laps. More often than not, if you can do all these things reasonably well, you win!”
Segal knows all too well that the Rolex 24 At Daytona can also give even the best prepared teams and drivers a cruel lesson. The No. 69 FXDD car was running to plan early in last year’s race, only to get caught up in accident triggered by other cars.
“The difficulty is that over 24 hours there are countless opportunities to get tripped up, and that’s the difference between leaving with a Rolex and leaving wondering what could have been,” Segal said. “I’ve experienced the latter enough times, I'm ready to get it right! With so many GT cars entered, there really is no margin for error, but I like the team we’ve assembled, and I like our chances.”