Driver Spotlight: Jeff Segal
Driver: No. 42/43 Team Sahlen Porsche Cayman (CTSC)
How has it been returning to the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge full-time this year?
“It has been great to be back in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge. This series is really where I got my start in professional level racing, and I’ve always loved the non-stop, door-to-door racing that you get there. Even if the cars are a lot slower than the GT cars I’ve been racing more recently, the actual racing element is so much more intense, so it’s a really fun challenge to stay up at the sharp end there.”
Has the level of competition changed quite a bit since your championship there?
“I don’t think the level has changed much since I last raced this series full time. You’ve always had a nice mixture of hungry up-and-comers along with really experienced, well-known professional drivers in this series, so it’s a really exciting dynamic on-track. I think the surprise for me is moving to the ST class whereas before I typically drove in the GS class. In the ST class momentum really counts for a lot more so you can’t afford any small mistakes or you’re going to lose five or six positions immediately!”
You’re oftentimes starting one car and finishing the other. Do you find that as a challenge or an advantage with having the extra track time?
“It’s definitely a challenge, driving two cars in the same race! While the cars are both identical Porsche Caymans prepared by Team Sahlen, there are always going to be subtle differences in how they handle or how they are setup. It really forces you to adapt quickly and get with the program in a matter of corners once leaving pit lane.
“It can be a little bit difficult to keep it all straight, especially since most races I jump directly from one car into the other during the races without any break. The upside is that I get to qualify AND I get to finish the race, so I’m having my cake and eating it too!”
You’re making your 24 Hours of Le Mans debut with Scuderia Corsa. How did the test day go and what’s it like to be part of the race?
“Every driver who has been to Le Mans will tell you that the place is absolutely magical, and the Le Mans test day with the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari confirmed that for me. The track is on a totally different level in terms of being challenging to figure out, and really gratifying to drive.
“We had very little running in the dry, but we were right on pace and in the top-five when I got out of the car before the rain arrived, so that was really encouraging. In the end the mixed conditions and rain really disrupted our test plan, but it could be like that during the race too so it’s good we got a taste of it in testing.”
Talk about your new driving simulator business and what inspired you to launch such an effort?
“I’m really excited about the new business venture, GPX Driver Development Lab, as I think high-end driving simulators are really the future of how driver coaching will be conducted. It wasn’t so long ago that these types of immersive, realistic driving simulators were reserved for the high-budget factory-backed racing operations, and now that the technology is available in a more mainstream setting we are starting to see how powerful this can be as a tool for driver training.
“For new drivers, it’s a great way to work with a coach and refine driving techniques using professional level data analysis tools, and without any danger you would have on-track. Then again, it isn’t only the new drivers who can benefit, as I would attribute a lot of my ability to get up to speed quickly at Le Mans to the experience drawn from the simulator, knowing what to expect and feeling comfortable right away.
“It isn’t a replacement for testing, but it is an amazing tool to help accelerate the learning curve so that you can make the most of the actual on-track time you have.”