THE 2017 ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA GTD WINNER TALKS ABOUT HIS OPPORTUNITY TO COMPETE IN THIS PRESTIGIOUS EVENT
Coming out from a season where he competed in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s Michelin Endurance Cup driving Montaplast by Land Motorsport’s Audi R8 LMS GT3 as well as several rounds of the Blancpain GT World Challenge America driving a Porsche 911 R for Alegra Motorsports, Daniel Morad is surely looking forward to be given another chance at winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
As it has been announced late last week, Daniel Morad is to partner Mirko Bortoletti, Dries Vanthoor and Rolf Ineichen driving the Audi R8 LMS GT3 prepared by WRT Speedstar Audi Sport with the support of Audi Canada. Like Daniel, his three teammates have had great success in long distance races.
WRT Speedstar Audi Sport competed in last year’s Rolex 24 and finished third in the GTD class.
We reached out to Daniel who was in the middle of unpacking(thanks for taking a moment with us!!) in his new home in Toronto to speak on how this opportunity came about.
This will be Daniel’s third visit at Daytona for the Rolex 24 having won in 2017 and was in a good position for a podium finish until a rule infraction relegated them at the bottom of the result sheet during the chaotic 2019 Rolex 24 due to the weather.
“Its tough out there right now with the budget needed for teams to compete but I did have a couple of offers that I looked at and I was fortunate to be contacted by WRT (W-Racing Team, based out Belgium, NDLR). They already had drivers like Mirko Bortoletti who I know well from my time racing in GP3(now known as FIA F3 Championship, NDLR) in Europe, Dries Vanthoor and I were teammates for this year’s Rolex 24 with Land Motorsport and Rolf knows of me as well. The three drivers were unanimous in pushing for me to be the part of the team. The only concern was for WRT to consolidate their budget and, at that same time, luckily Audi Canada showed interest in being back for the 2020 Rolex 24 and this helped in confirming my place with the team.”
“What I like about the team, the organization, is they are expanding quite rapidly with presence in DTM, WTCR and growing GT3 roaster and they’re the team Audi utilizes the most and quite frankly, I want to be affiliated with a team that is growing and has opportunities.”
When looking at the list of drivers joining with the different teams, it looks as if the GTD class will be as competitive if not even more than the 2019 Rolex 24. Simply looking at AIM Vasser Sullivan who will have Kyle Bush in one of their cars.
“It’s very similar, there are a great number of drivers that come in specifically for the Rolex 24. Apart form us, I would say the Pfaff Motorsports’ line-up is quite strong and Heinricher Racing with Misha Goikhberg and Alvaro Parente, Trent Hindman and AJ Allmendinger are also looking strong,” commented Daniel.
To win a 24 hours race is more than just having a car that will last the duration of the race.
“Everytime I have done it, it’s been important to stay clean, stay out of trouble and run consistent lap times. The driver line-up is key as well,” said Daniel. “You want drivers that are, on average, pretty similar when delivering lap times. This can be an advantage to other team that have a bigger spread between drivers. Over an hour of running, it could be as much as gaining or loosing a lap to leaders. So, effectively, it will make a huge difference in strategies as well. Consistency is the key, as per example last year with Land Motorsport, we did not have the most performance oriented race car out there but as drivers and as a team, we showed consistency and were in front.”
Daytona being mainly an oval Super Speedway with infield portions built into it, we wondered how difficult the track is to drive.
“Daytona, I find, is not that difficult. There are mainly three very important corners at Daytona. First one is coming off the banking at corner 1 as it can get tricky at times especially under braking. You then have corner 6(part of the first infield portion exiting turn 6 you rejoin the oval turn 1 and into the banking, NDLR), the left hander going back onto the oval, as we have to exit properly to build momentum towards the bus stop(chicane between the oval turns 2 and 3, NDLR). The same applies exiting the bus stop as we then head back onto the oval again building up speed from corner 3 of the oval all the way to the braking for the infield portion past the front straight.”
In terms of performance, the Audi R8 LMS GT3 was in a not so good a position as more often than none it lacked top end speed during the 2019 season. Although through strategy, from Daniel’s point of view, they were able to couterbalance the situation.
“Last year through BoP(Balance of Performance, NDLR) we did not have the quickest car in terms of top speed for some reason. But with a great team strategy and crew during pit stops, we were able to make the most of it and get some good results. For 2020, by the looks of it, we are to be the only Audi representative at the Rolex 24. I do not know at the moment if Audi has made any adjustments to the powertrain or the car itself and I believe Audi will pretty much have the same BoP from the last race of 2019 season. Usually IMSA looks at the overall performance of every manufacturers between the Roar and Rolex 24 and makes BoP adjustments in preparation for the race.”
With less than three weeks to go before the Roar, we asked Daniel if he was to get more acquainted with the car and team prior to arriving at Daytona.
“No, it is not a necessity. I am fortunate to have driven the R8 LMS GT3 all season so it is a car I know and am comfortable with simply arriving at Daytona and putting my helmet on and drive. I am not very complicated when it comes to seat fitting and comfort and usually make use of inserts the team may have.”
We are certainly looking forward to see Daniel on track driving the no. 88 WRT Speedstar Audi Sport with support by Audi Canada R8 LMS GT3 for the Roar before the Rolex 24 taking place January 3-5. Then on January 23-26 for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
And, remember to take a look at Audi Canada social media and vote on your preferred livery. You have until December 23rd to do so.
In giving back to the sport, through his Moradness brand, Daniel has put together the Moradness karting championship open to anyone and to take place in 2020. It is an endurance karting championship based on sportscar racing and will be a 5-race championship utilizing high performance arrive and drive go karts, with the ultimate prize being a fully paid race weekend in a Porsche 944 Cup car with Daniel as teammate.
The number of entries is limited to 16 teams with 3 drivers per team. You can watch the promotional video here.
Image: Patrice Marchessault / PMstills Photography
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