Jeff Segal Makes Le Mans Debut a Memorable One with Ferrari Challenge Pole

Jeff Segal Makes Le Mans Debut a Memorable One with Ferrari Challenge Pole

29.06.2013: ..... Fastest Race Lap and Fourth-Place Finish Two-Time and Reigning GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT Champion Gives

..... Fastest Race Lap and Fourth-Place Finish




Two-Time and Reigning GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT Champion Gives Notice in First Visit to the Legendary Circuit de la Sarthe at Le Mans



Two-time and reigning GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT Champion Jeff Segal made his racing debut at Le Mans a memorable one last weekend where he started from the pole, set the fastest race lap and scored a fourth-place finish in the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli Europe race, the primary support event for the 90th Anniversary 24 Hours of Le Mans.


Segal, the reigning and 2010 GRAND-AM Rolex Series GT Champion, had never seen the legendary Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans but that didn’t stop him from becoming an instant contender in one of the most competitive Ferrari Challenge championships in the world.


With backing from longtime Rolex Series partner FXDD, Segal drove the No. 57 Ferrari 458 Challenge prepared by the leading and championship-winning Rossocorsa team, the official Ferrari dealer from the Lombardy region of Italy.


“To compete in the Ferrari Challenge race at Le Mans was a huge achievement for me, and a major step toward one of my main career ambitions,” Segal said. “To race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans has always been high on my wish list, and the chance to compete in the Ferrari Challenge gives me vital experience toward achieving that goal.  Now I've had a chance to learn what the track is all about, which gives me a massive head start for next time I go back.”


The Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli Europe series is the ideal proving ground for a step up to a GTE effort in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This particular breed of Ferrari Challenge race car produces 570 horsepower and top speeds at Le Mans in excess of 190 mph on Pirelli slick racing tires. 


A field of more than 40 identical Ferrari 458s – all built to the same series-standard specification and with no permitted modifications – raced at Le Mans and Segal topped them all with the fastest lap of the weekend in the race. His lap time of just over four minutes and five seconds was nearly a second quicker than the competition and not far from the GT cars competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans later that day.


Segal clocked in third fastest in qualifying but was moved to the pole after the front row qualifiers served penalties assessed from earlier season races.  He ran with the leaders from the drop of the green flag and stayed in contention to the finish despite mixed wet and dry conditions and a 45-second pit stop delay while changing to slick tires. 


Charging back from the middle of the field, Segal gained on the leaders by more than three seconds a lap, nearly reaching the podium at the checkered flag.  Fourth-place at Le Mans is a solid result for any debuting driver and Segal is determined to make it back to Circuit de la Sarthe for the 24 Hours of Le Mans as soon as next year.


“You always want even more track time, but I think I made the most of what I had,” Segal said. “We were fast right out of the box, and I turned the fastest lap of the race by a pretty healthy margin.  I definitely feel comfortable with the circuit now, and I would have to rank it among my favorite tracks I've driven so far.”


Segal immediately felt the history and pure spectacle of racing on what is nothing short of hallowed ground at Le Mans.


“Driving the circuit was absolutely spectacular,” Segal said. “It is just such a special place. The course is so demanding, the speeds are so high, and it really is unlike any other course I've ever driven. I enjoyed every corner of every lap, and cannot wait for another opportunity to go back.


Even as a support series for the 24 hour, there were an incredible amount of people in the grandstands and lining the fences for our race. The fans are tremendous there, not just by their numbers, but also by their passion and knowledge of the sport.”


Next up for Segal is a return to the No. 61 R.Ferri/AIM Motorsport Racing with Ferrari 458 Italia, with co-drivers Max Papis and Toni Vilander, for this weekend’s GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, June 28 – 30. The six-hour endurance race can be seen live on SPEED at 11 a.m. EDT/8 a.m. PDT on Sunday, June 30.


“Watkins Glen has always been a track that I've enjoyed driving, and it is a track where I've had a lot of success,” Segal said. “My first GRAND-AM Rolex Series win was at the Six Hours in 2008, and we also won the short course event in 2009. 


We were on the podium in 2011 and also third in last year’s race. So, it is definitely a happy hunting ground for me!  With the momentum that we have built so far this season I'm hoping that it is also the scene of a much needed win in 2013.”



Adam Saal - also photo

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29.06.2013 / MaP

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