with No. 69 AIM Autosport Team FXDD Ferrari 458 Italia Grand AmFormer Barber GT Winner Returns with Teammate Emil Assentato in New FerrariFormer Barber Motorsports Park race winner Jeff Segal, along with his co-driver Emil Assentato and AIM Autosport Team FXDD, will be shooting for more success on the Alabama road course when the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series returns to racing after an eight-week break this weekend for the Porsche 250. The featured 2-3/4 hour sprint race is scheduled to start at 12:15 p.m. local time this Saturday, March 31, and can been seen in same-day “virtual live” coverage on SPEED at 4 p.m. EDT/1 p.m. PDT.
Segal and Assentato co-drove to the GT class victory in the 2010 Porsche 250 and will look for their next win on the tight 2.3-mile Barber road course at the wheel of their new AIM Autosport Team FXDD No. 69 Ferrari 458 Italia Grand Am. Segal and Assentato have raced as teammates for FXDD for the last five seasons but 2012 marks their first year with both a Ferrari and AIM Autosport. The new program moved off to a good start one race ago with an eighth-place finish in January’s season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona.
“With the Rolex 24 behind us, the team has had the opportunity to do a lot of development to our Ferrari 458, and we're looking forward to seeing the fruits of all this labor when we hit the track again this week,” Segal said. “We learned a lot about our new car at Daytona, and along with Ferrari and our key technical partners at Michelotto, we have a firm grasp on what needed to be improved to get to the front of the GT class. We still have plenty of challenges ahead of us, but I'm totally convinced that we are capable of competing for a win at Barber.”
Barber is the first of 10 sprint races, ranging in length from two to 2-3/4 hours in length, that make up the balance of this year’s 13-event GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series schedule.
“I'm 100% ready to go, and the start of the sprint race season at Barber can't come soon enough as far as I'm concerned,” Segal said. “I think we showed really well at Daytona, but clearly we didn't have the top speed of some of the other manufacturers, which definitely hurts on a track with such long straights. Compared with Daytona, Barber is really at the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of what kind of performance a car needs to be successful, but I'm convinced that it should suit our car none the less.”
The No. 69 AIM Autosport Team FXDD Ferrari 458 Italia Grand Am will carry the flag for the legendary “Prancing Horse” as the only full-season Ferrari entered in the GRAND-AM Rolex Series. The car is as new to Segal and his teammates as it is to the competition.
“With the Ferrari being such a new platform in the Rolex Series, I think it’s a bit premature to firmly label what kind of tracks will or won't suit us,” Segal said. “We noted that our car had excellent braking and handling characteristics, and with so many corners and so few long straightaways, it would appear as though this should work well at Barber. That said, Daytona is the only race track our car has ever been on in North America, so we still have a lot to learn in order to catch up with the established teams. We're focused on making sure that our car takes care of its tires over a long stint, as this is usually the challenge in the Alabama heat. If we can do that, we should have a shot.”
In addition to the 2010 victory, Segal and Assentato finished fourth in last year’s Porsche 250 after running third in the late going. The recent positive results have helped make the 17-turn Barber track one that Segal has grown to like.
“Barber is a tricky little track, and definitely a place I've come to enjoy more and more each year that we return,” Segal said. “I've had the pleasure of finishing well there in the past, so I would definitely count it among my favorite tracks, even though it really is a pretty frustrating place behind the wheel. A lot of the frustration, I find, stems from the fact that the course is so tight and twisty, with a lot of really long duration corners and not many straightaways. As a driver, this forces you to be inch-perfect with your line, and makes it especially difficult to manage traffic and make clean passes. It’s a unique challenge though, and it is a very rewarding track when you have a car that works well through a full stint.”
The off-track environment at Barber, which is regarded as one of the most scenic and picturesque race circuits in the world, is another plus for Segal.
“Barber has a very unique atmosphere, with a traditionally strong spectator turnout and really cool viewing opportunities from up on the hills surrounding the track,” Segal said. “I know we appreciate all the fans that come out to see us race, and we're looking forward to putting on a good show.”
Official practice for the Porsche 250 begins Thursday, with final practice and qualifying on the schedule Friday morning. Race-day Saturday features only the Porsche 250 at 12:15 p.m. local time.