He is the top returning driver in the series. He is staying with the same team for a second straight season for the first time. His new direction in sports cars continues to open territory to explore and attack.
Daniel Morad’s time is now, and he knows it.
Morad, from Thornhill, Ontario, enters the 2016 Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama as a Platinum Cup championship favorite. He finished second last season in his rookie year in sports cars, just five points behind champion Chris Green, after recording a victory and eight other podium finishes in 10 starts in the No. 22 Alegra/Porsche Centre Oakville Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car.
That performance helped Alegra/Porsche Centre Oakville Motorsports win the Platinum Cup Team Championship during the first season of its alliance, which continues in 2016.
“The target definitely is win or bust this year,” Morad said. “I’m one of the favorites for this, but there’s always going to be a fast driver, someone to push me along. I’m just focused on our program.
“Alegra Motorsports and Porsche Centre Oakville have been huge in restarting my career. I’m super-excited to have been a huge part in winning the team championship for them in their first season together.”
Morad, 26, joined Alegra/Porsche Centre Oakville Motorsports only a week before the 2015 Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama season started. It was his first season in a race car since 2011, when commercial pressures derailed his promising open-wheel career in GP3 in Europe and Indy Lights in North America.
The new ride was a welcome return to competition and an initial foray into sports car racing after an accomplished career in karting and open-wheel series. Morad won the Formula BMW championship in 2007 and raced around the world in GP3 and A1GP as a member of the Red Bull Junior Team, which has groomed 12 drivers who have reached F1 in the last decade. He also won a karting World Championship in 2010 in Italy.
Morad made the most of his new opportunity in 2015. He won Round 4 in torrential rain in June at Toronto in one of the most magisterial drives of the season and chased Green all the way to the season finale in August at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (CTMP).
A failure to finish in Round 3 at Toronto after contact from another driver dented Morad’s drive to win the title. But his impressive sports car debut still attracted attention from Porsche, which invited Morad as one of four participants in its elite Young Driver Academy in October 2015.
“Last year, our goal was to win the championship, and we were so close,” Morad said. “If it wasn’t for a DNF in Toronto, then we would have won the championship.”
His title chances are strong this season. Reigning champion Green plans to run only a partial schedule with Pfaff Motorsports, and Morad is back with Alegra/Porsche Centre Oakville Motorsports, an experienced, skilled team run by veteran manager Andy Greene.
Morad never has stayed with the same team for two consecutive seasons, and it’s only the second time he has raced in the same series for two years in a row. The other time? In 2007, when he won the Formula BMW championship.
“Last year was my first year in GT racing, and I had no time to prepare,” Morad said. “This time I’ve had a full season under my belt. I also got to race in Europe in the Carrera Cup UK, and I learned a lot there, as well.
“I’m way more confident, especially after having my debut race in the Sebring Twelve Hours, in the Prototype. That definitely sharpens me up for the season.”
Morad’s pace and composure during the pressure of the championship race last year proved he was a capable team leader. So Alegra owner and driver Carlos de Quesada rewarded Morad with a drive in the team’s Prototype this March in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida.
The Alegra team finished 11th in class at Sebring after electrical problems. But Morad impressed during his stints in the rain, climbing as high as third overall by the midway point of the race. It was an outstanding performance, especially considering it was his first drive in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. He will continue in the Prototype in the remaining Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races at Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta, with other races a possibility.
So Morad enters the 2016 Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama season opener May 20-22 at CTMP teeming with confidence. And he also will continue his second job with the team – teacher.
Morad worked closely with and became a “big brother” mentor to fellow series rookie Michael de Quesada in 2015. De Quesada finished second in the Gold Cup championship by just two points as a 15-year-old auto racing rookie last year and is climbing to the tougher Platinum Cup competition this season.
The teaching role comes naturally to Morad. He has worked with manufacturers as a driving instructor since his open-wheel career stalled in 2011, a job he still performs.
Morad also serves as a mentor to 13-year-old Canadian karting standout Matthew Latifi, the younger brother of Renault Formula One test driver and former Morad rival Nicholas Latifi. Morad traveled with Latifi to major karting events in Europe and the United States last winter and this spring, giving Latifi important guidance about life on and off the racetrack.
“I love teaching,” Morad said. “So when I had a brief pause in my racing career in 2011, I had an opportunity to work with other car manufacturers. I always got a nice sense of satisfaction to help others and share my wealth of knowledge.
“The goal is for me to win the championship but also to help Michael (de Quesada) accelerate his learning curve. He’s a young guy. I remember when I was 16 years old: I wish I had somebody to really mentor me along. I’m looking to play two important roles this year.”
When Morad was 16, his focus was fixed on the open-wheel ladder and reaching Formula One. Fast-forward a decade, and he has found an unexpected, challenging and fun home in sports cars.
Find the sunglasses: Morad’s future is bright.
“I love sports car racing,” Morad said. “After my first taste of IMSA competition last year, it’s something I definitely should have done a lot earlier in my career when I had the opportunity. One thing I can say is for all the young guys coming up who are set on open-wheel racing, they should really have a rethink because sports cars are where it’s at.
“It’s some of the best racing in the world, some of the best drivers in the world, factory drivers who are being paid to race. So you know the talent pool is really high. It’s essentially the best of the best, and that’s what I live for. I’m a competitive guy. I don’t want to just win against anybody. I want to win against the best and be the best. And when I am the best, then I still don’t give up. I still push to keep elevating my game.
“I’m super-excited for this year and want to keep up the momentum and build on the already good start for this year.”
Source. LST Marketing