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Pirelli Paddock Pass: Jeff Segal

This week’s Pirelli Paddock Pass with Jeff Segal…

Photo: PWC

How would you assess your 2018 Pirelli SprintX season? Did it exceed expectations?

“On the whole, I think we can look at 2018 and say that it was a very successful year.

“At the start of the year, we knew that we had a steep learning curve with the PWC SprintX format, and we tried very hard to manage expectations internally.

“I think everyone knew that we would have speed, but since we were two rookie drivers in this series, we understood that there would probably be some bumps along the way.

“TR3 Racing had a year of experience in PWC with the Ferrari, but with Wei and I both being new drivers to the team, we expected it might take some time to come together.

“Of course, starting the year with a race win at COTA in our very first weekend, this immediately made everyone hungry for more of the type of success.

“Ultimately, the fact that we ended the season with three race wins, many podiums, a lot of really strong race performances, and only narrowly missed the championship by a handful of points, we have to look at this as a very successful outcome.”

What would you consider the highlight of your season?

“I think the highlight of the year, speaking broadly, was watching my co-driver Wei Lu rise to the occasion and show so much speed and potential in his first season driving a GT3 car.

“We did really minimal testing, so there was a lot for him to absorb on the race weekends.

“In particular, his qualifying performance at COTA was something really special: class pole our first time out, and only a few tenths from the Ferrari factory driver in the Pro/Pro class car

“This was a huge shot of confidence for all of us and showed us that we could be contenders this year.”

Your co-driver Wei Lu impressed all season long, where did you see the biggest improvement out of him?

“Wei’s performance was really pivotal to our successes this year.

“I had been working with him for a few seasons with Ferrari of Vancouver in the Ferrari Challenge series before we made the step to PWC, and he has come such a long way since we started.

“He has a really impressive hunger to learn, to analyze his mistakes and to constantly improve his performance for the next event.

“Given the lack of experience he has in GT3 cars and in this level of racing generally, I think his biggest gain was simply to start to have the confidence that he can do this, that he belongs at this level, and for him to feel comfortable in his surroundings in a top-level pro series.

“Once that started to click for him, it’s like he found another gear!”

How beneficial is it to be able to share the car with a driver that you are coaching for their development?

“I think that the co-driver/coaching relationship was really vital to our success this year.

“When I coached Wei in Ferrari Challenge, I would have the opportunity to jump in his car every now and then to do a data lap or to assist with some setup work, but when you share a car in a multi-driver setting, there is so much more value that you can share with your co-driver.

“We are able to speak from equal experience about car setup, approach to driving the track, managing tires, and so on.

“We tend to want the same things from the car, because we’ve spent years working together and developing a common style.

“Even the little things like how to approach pit stops and driver changes, new things for Wei, we have a much closer relationship than many co-drivers, so it all comes easily.

“Between the two of us there is a very open communication, so there are rarely any surprises or hidden agendas.”

What was your key to the pit stop strategy of the SprintX format?

“Like anything in motorsport, I think the key was to focus on precision.

“We saw through the season that many teams were sloppy with the pit stops, they didn’t focus on the details, and ultimately they lost a lot of time at the pit stops.

“We worked very hard with our engineer to maximize our pit stops, to keep the margin very tight to the minimum-stop time, but also to maximize the in-laps, out-laps, and pit entry.

“In these details we found a huge opportunity to make up time on our competitors.

“Salt Lake City was the culmination of all this work, where we nailed the procedure in both races and executed on a level that beat many of the Pro/Pro teams.’

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