Jeff Segal clinched the 2012 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT Championship with a second-place finish Sunday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the No. 69 AIM Autosport Team FXDD Ferrari 458 Italia Grand Am, earning his second GT title in the last three years with co-driver Emil Assentato.
The 2012 championship is the crowning moment of a successful season of competition for Segal, Assentato and AIM Autosport Team FXDD, and a triumphant return for Ferrari to the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT division. A class-leading three GT race wins and an unmatched record of no finish lower than eighth all year - including seven total podium results in 12 races - let Segal and his teammates seal the 2012 championship one race before the season-ending event at Lime Rock Park at the end of the month.
"It's a fantastic feeling to have set a goal at the beginning of the season to have worked very systematically toward achieving that goal." Segal said. "One race before the end of the season we accomplished what we set out to do, which was to win the championship with Ferrari in its return to the Rolex Series. There is still the manufacturers' championship that we are fighting for at Lime Rock but a large part of the mission is accomplished."
After Assentato turned in a typically solid stint in the Ferrari in the race's opening hour, Segal took over and was soon contending for the victory. He moved to the race lead, set the pace for 16 laps, and managed to hold on to second despite a late splash-and-go pit stop for fuel less than 10 minutes from the finish. Segal then held off a challenge from Porsche driver Andy Lally for his second runner-up showing in a row and fourth this season. Segal also finished second one race ago in Montreal.
"It's a great feeling," Segal said. "It was a really, really hard-fought race, and I guess it is fitting that it ended like that in terms of clinching this deal. I think the perception has been that we have had an easy time this season but the reality has been quite a bit different. We have been fighting for everything, and this race, in order for us to seal it up before Lime Rock, we had a last lap battle that we needed to win, and we did."
Lally, who like Segal, is one of less than 10 active multiple champions in GRAND-AM Road Racing, couldn't manage to make it by the No. 69 Ferrari. Segal also joined with Assentato and FXDD in winning the 2010 GT championship in addition to Segal's 2007 GRAND-AM Continental Tire Challenge GS (Grand Sport) Championship. Segal now has three GRAND-AM Road Racing titles won in the last six years on his resume at 27 years old.