After a season with Michael Shank Racing and Acura, Jeff Segal will return to his spiritual home of Ferrari next year, having been confirmed for Scuderia Corsa’s lineup in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and pending invite, the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The 2016 Le Mans GTE-Am class winner will join Cooper MacNeil, Alessandro Balzan and a to-be-confirmed Bronze or Silver-rated driver at the wheel of the WeatherTech-sponsored Ferrari 488 GT3 car for Daytona, in an opportunity that will see Segal play an active role with the team all season.
“I’m really happy to be with them for Daytona and will be with the team for the year in some capacity, whether coaching, spotting, etc, and helping out in any way I can,” Segal told Sportscar365. “But the prospect of Le Mans is the big carrot for me.”
A return to the French endurance classic would be dependent on the Giacomo Mattioli-led team securing an invite for the race, after fielding two GTE-Am class Ferraris this year, via auto entries.
Segal was part of the team’s class-winning entry in 2016, alongside Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell, and was forced to watch the race from the team’s pit box in June, admitting he’d trade a full-season WeatherTech SportsCar Championship seat for an opportunity to return to Le Mans.
“It was great to be part of the Shank Acura program for this year,” he said. “It was a really gratifying experience, I learned a tremendous amount and I think we accomplished a lot.
“Certainly the opportunity to return [to MSR] is something that you think about because it’s a great program.
“But to me, winning Le Mans two years ago and racing the full season this year, if I had to put the two against each other… I love IMSA but Le Mans is something special and it’s something I want more of.
“Faced with the situation where it really potentially was one or the other, then Le Mans is my goal for 2018.”
Having also won the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen with the team last year, alongside Balzan, Segal feels he can help MacNeil’s integration with the GTD outfit next year.
“There’s a lot of synergies there,” he said. “Ironically, I met Cooper for the first time when he raced in Ferrari Challenge in 2011 when I coached him.
“In that sense we go real back and that’s the common thread.
“I think him racing the 488 next year with Scuderia Corsa is going to be a good program. He knows the car a little bit from Le Mans, a little bit from Ferrari Challenge. I think there’s a good comfort level with the team, already, from those activities. And I think things can click really well.”
New Drivers at Shank for 2018
With Segal departing and Andy Lally reportedly to return to Magnus Racing next year, there will be at least two driver changes within MSR’s lineup for the 2018 season.
Michael Shank told Sportscar365 last month he plans to continue fielding Acura NSX GT3s, with the goal of remaining a two-car operation in GTD, but as a customer program.
The Ohio-based team tested prospective drivers on Tuesday at Mid-Ohio, with an additional two-day test scheduled at Sebring next month.
HPD President Art St. Cyr said he expects to have have potentially up to three customer Acuras on the grid in GTD next year.