and in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series this Weekend at the Grand Prix of Miami
Second-Place Last Year at “Home Track” and one race ago at Barber Motorsports Park has Segal Primed for Top Podium Spot
MIAMI, Fla. (April 25, 2012) – Miami-resident Jeff Segal will be looking for repeat podium finishes at Homestead-Miami Speedway and in the 2012 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series in this weekend’s Grand Prix of Miami where he will join teammate Emil Assentato in the new No. 69 AIM Autosport Team FXDD Ferrari 458 Italia Grand Am. A timed 2-3/4-hour sprint race, the Grand Prix of Miami can be seen live on SPEED this Sunday, April 29, at 1 p.m. EDT/10 a.m. PDT.
Segal, a 2007 University of Miami Business School graduate, stayed in Florida after earning his business administration bachelor's degree but considered Homestead-Miami Speedway a home track long before that. He won his first Ferrari Challenge at Homestead in 2003 when he was just 17, and a second-place finish in last year’s Grand Prix of Miami with Assentato was another top accomplishment on the 2.3-mile Miami road course.
“I'm very excited to come 'home' to race in Miami, and optimistic about our prospects since Homestead is a track where Emil and I have typically run very well in recent years,” Segal said. “We are coming off of a very encouraging result at Barber, and I'm hoping that all the progress we've made with the car will translate into another strong showing at Homestead.”
Segal and Assentato also finished second in the most recent GRAND-AM Rolex Series race at Barber Motorsports Park late last month. That event marked the first sprint race for the beautiful new No. 69 AIM Autosport Team FXDD Ferrari 458 Italia Grand Am after the car debuted in January’s season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona.
“Our performance at Barber was a much needed shot in the arm for the whole program, and hopefully representative of more good things to come this season,” Segal said. “We have a really experienced group of people with a lot of winning history, but it was good to come out of the weekend with a solid result and not just a flash of speed. I'm not so sure that all the circuits will suit our car the way Barber did, but we're feeling good about our grasp on the car so early in the season.”
Segal’s extensive experience at Homestead-Miami has taught him that the 11-turn speedway road course is one of the most challenging circuits on the GRAND-AM Road Racing tour.
“While we've managed to get a handle on the setup for our new car reasonably quickly this season, it’s important to remember that we are still facing a lot of unknowns, especially at a tricky circuit like this one,” Segal said. “The hotter races are often won by teams who are able to show some restraint and be patient as the tires inevitably degrade, and Homestead is a prime example of one such race.”
As is usually the case, tire management will be a key issue in Sunday’s race.
“Hopefully we will be able to exploit our strength of being kind to our tires in this race, especially if the weather is hot and the track is slippery,” Segal said. “Last year we didn't have the outright speed of some other cars, but we were good at preserving the tires and that netted a podium finish. Obviously, we're aware that the Mazda we drove last year still holds an advantage over the rest of the GT class in terms of tire wear as we saw at Barber, but we seem to be able to make our Ferrari's tires last reasonably well, so we should be OK in longer runs. While Homestead is a 'roval,' the top speed isn't usually as critical as it would be at a track like Daytona. The emphasis is more on braking ability and traction off the slow corners. That should suit us well.”
The No. 69 team finished eighth at the Rolex 24 and moved into the thick of the early-season GT championship battle with the runner-up placing at Barber. Segal and Assentato, and the No. 69 AIM Autosport Team FXDD Ferrari 458 Italia Grand Am team, each have 55 points in the respective GRAND-AM Rolex Series GT Driver and Team Championships. That ranks both the drivers and team just eight points out of first place in both championships.
The weekend schedule for the Grand Prix of Miami starts Thursday with an unofficial test day before official opening practice on Friday. Saturday includes final practice before qualifying early that afternoon. Race-day Sunday begins with a 30-minute final practice session at 10 a.m. before the GRAND Prix of Miami that is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. local time.
- Segal was impressed by Assentato’s performance at Barber where he qualified second and moved to the lead during his race-opening driving shift. “It's important to point out that Emil has done an incredible job of coming to grips with the car,” Segal said. “He did a fantastic job to keep the car up front in his stint at Barber.”
- Segal and Assentato found some time for a two-day team test at New Jersey Motorsports Park (NJMP) last week. “We had a great test at NJMP, with Emil putting in a solid day's work at the Thunderbolt circuit while I did some R&D and setup work the next day at the neighboring Lightning track,” Segal said. “It was a good opportunity to play with some different setup ideas away from the pressure and time constraints of a race weekend. I think more than anything else we validated that the setup we found at Barber works very well on the car and really has it running exceptionally well. With the grueling schedule we'll face in June and July, now is our chance to figure out what we need to improve in order to stay competitive in such a closely matched class. Now we are better prepared for the race at NJMP in May, and also feeling more confident that we know how various changes will affect the car.”