WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (August 12, 2012) – A race that got off to a disastrous start may have very well ended up being the defining drive of the season for Jeff Segal, co-driver Emil Assentato and AIM Autosport Team FXDD Saturday in the Continental Tire 200 at Watkins Glen International where an opening lap accident didn’t stop Segal and his teammates from fighting back to a seventh-place finish.
Starting fourth after a strong qualifying effort on Friday, Assentato was driving into Turn 1 at the race start when the brakes on the No. 69 Ferrari appeared to lock up. The Ferrari collected the No. 57 Camaro of main championship rivals Stevenson Motorsports and both cars sustained heavy damage and spun off course.
“First and foremost, I want to apologize to the Stevenson guys,” Segal said. “I am not sure exactly what happened to Emil at the start, but it looks like he lost control of the car under braking, got into them, and they were sort of an innocent victim. We are racing them in the championship, and it’s a fierce battle, but that is not a good way for this to go down.”
Assentato managed to recover and drive the stricken Ferrari back to the pits where the AIM Autosport Team FXDD crew repaired what damage they could while trying minimize the number of laps the No. 69 went down to the leaders. Assentato returned to the track, finished out his stint and Segal took the wheel later in the race’s opening hour.
“From that point on, we were in recovery mode,” Segal said. “The car was all sorts of wounded. We had damage on the front end, we had damage on the rear end, we had some aerodynamic issues, we had some suspension issues but we were still trying to improve the car.”
Segal and his teammates came into The Glen weekend with the best race win and finishing record in the GRAND-AM Rolex Series but even Saturday’s challenging race only put a dent in what has been a solid performance record so far this season.
Segal and AIM Autosport Team FXDD remain one of the few teams in the series to finish every 2012 race and the only GT team to finish in the top-eight at every event. Even Saturday’s seventh-place result – the team’s first finish out of the top-five in the last nine races – wasn’t the lowest race result of the year. Segal and his AIM Autosport Team teammates finished eighth in their debut race with the new Ferrari at the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona.
“We tried to keep the lap times up there, but we were really struggling quite a lot, and we are very fortunate that attrition took its toll on some of the other cars. It is pretty unbelievable that going two or three laps down we managed to get out of here with a seventh place. Not ideal, especially with the 94 car taking the win, they are right behind us in the points now, but I think we definitely made the best of a bad situation.”
Segal has led the GT-class championship standings since he and his AIM Autosport Team FXDD teammates won their first of three races this year in April’s Grand Prix of Miami. Although they lost a full 10 points to their nearest competitor Saturday, Segal and Assentato still have a 16-point lead in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT Championship Driver standings. The No. 69 AIM Autosport Team FXDD Ferrari 458 Italia Grand Am has the same 16-point advantage in the GT Team Championship standings.
In addition to the Miami victory, Segal’s other 2012 race wins came at New Jersey Motorsports Park and Road America.
Segal, Assentato and the No. 69 Ferrari leave The Glen with 300 points while nearest challengers, and Saturday’s race winners, Turner Motorsport have 284 points in the No. 94 BMW.
Next up for Jeff Segal, AIM Autosport Team FXDD and the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Cars Series is next Saturday’s Montreal 200 on Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal. The timed-two hour sprint on the 2.709-mile road course can be seen in same-day coverage on SPEED, Saturday, August 18, at 7 p.m. EDT/4 p.m. PDT.