Daytona, Fla. (January 30, 2012) – AIM Autosport Team FXDD took eighth place yesterday in the GT class of the Fiftieth Anniversary Rolex 24 at Daytona as its FXDD Ferrari 458 Italia GT Grand-Am performed flawlessly for 24 consecutive hours at Daytona International Speedway. The team faced stiff competition in its debut race with its new Ferrari, battling 47 other cars in the GT class with top drivers representing GT championships around the world.
The twice-around-the-clock race began on Saturday at 3:30pm with Jeff Segal at the wheel of the AIM Autosport Team FXDD entry. On Thursday afternoon, Segal qualified second, putting the car on the front row for the start of its first race. After briefly surging into the lead, Segal settled into race pace for the long drive ahead.
Although the FXDD Ferrari 458 ran flawlessly for Segal and his co-drivers, Emil Assentato, Anthony Lazzaro and Nick Longhi, the gruelling 24-hour contest was not without anxious moments.
A couple of contact incidents within the first six hours of the race, including one that knocked the car into a spin, gave the team cause for concern, but AIM Autosport had put significant effort into protecting key components of the car in the event of light contact and the Ferrari emerged unscathed from both incidents.
Another moment of drama arose when Longhi ran out of fuel as he neared the end of a driving stint in hour nine. The car coasted into the pits where it was refuelled and Longhi handed off to Segal. The motor stumbled after the stop, but the quick-thinking Segal was able to reset the computer and rejoin the fray.
The most significant setback came 11h 15m into the race when Lazzaro received a 1m 50s penalty for passing the pace car under yellow. Lazzaro was, in fact, entitled by the rule book to pass the pace car, but as Race Control had yet to issue permission at the time of the pass, the penalty was levied upon AIM Autosport Team FXDD and a few other teams who had interpreted the new 2012 yellow-flag rules in similar fashion.
From that point on, the race went quite smoothy for AIM Autosport Team FXDD. At around the 12-hour mark—near 3:30am—the team made a scheduled replacement of front brake rotors and pads. Then, while running eighth with just 45 minutes remaining in the race and a sizeable gap to the next car, the team elected to replace the front-left brake pads as a precautionary measure. The service was completed without losing a position and the car went on to cross the finish line eighth in the GT class.
“I am a little disappointed that we were not fighting for the win. On the other hand, today we proved that the Ferrari 458 Italia GT Grand-Am has great potential and is reliable over 24 hours,” said Segal, who logged over ten hours in the car during the 24-hour run.
“First of all, I am very pleased to have finished the race. With a new car, there is always the question of reliability and for the car to finish a 24-hour race on its debut is a testament to both Ferrari and the standard of preparation by AIM Autosport Team FXDD,” stated Assentato.
“Ferrari proved today that it is a force to be reckoned with in Grand-Am endurance racing,” said Lazzaro. “For me, it was satisfying and encouraging to see the pace and reliability that the new car had.”
“This first race has certainly justified Ferrari’s decision to create the 458 Italia GT Grand-Am; our car was both fast and perfectly reliable,” remarked Nick Longhi. “The highlight for me though was qualifying, Jeff putting the car on the front row in the most competitive GT field in 50 years of Daytona racing history. It was very satisfying for our team to give Ferrari that result to thank them for their great support in such an important event.”
“Given our strong qualifying performance, it is easy to focus on just the race win and overlook what a tremendous achievement it is for a new car to finish a 24-hour race as gruelling as Daytona,” said Race Engineer, Ian Willis. “I’m reasonably content with the result, but am much more excited by the speed and reliability it showed out of the box.”
AIM Autosport now has two months before round two of the 2012 Rolex Sports Car Series, the Porsche 250, scheduled for March 30–31 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. The team will not be taking any time off during this long break in the schedule; as soon as the car arrives back at the team’s headquarters in Woodbridge, Ont., the crew will start the process of stripping, examining and rebuilding the car.
photo: The AIM Autosport Team FXDD crew services the FXDD Ferrari 458 Italia GT Grand-Am with just over three hours to go in the Fiftieth Anniversary Rolex 24 at Daytona. (AIM Autosport photo)
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AIM Autosport is a professional motorsports team active in highly-competitive sports car and open-wheel racing series in North America. AIM has achieved success in every category it has entered through its operating efficiency, engineering skill, experience, dedication and stability of workforce. The team’s top-tier program is a Ferrari 458 Italia GT Grand-Am driven by Jeff Segal and Emil Assentato. In 2012 this car is entered in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series including the 50th anniversary running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Since its launch in 1995, AIM has built a winning heritage by fielding competitive cars for talented young drivers in junior development categories. That continues with multi-car teams in the Road to Indy® professional driver development ladder where AIM is a perennial pacesetter in the Star Mazda series. For more information, visit aimautosport.com or facebook.com/AIMautosport.