Alegra Motorsports’ improbable run to victory in a stacked GT Daytona field in last weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona was set in motion at the 2016 end-of-season IMSA awards banquet, according to owner/driver Carlos de Quesada.
De Quesada, along with his son Michael, Canadians Daniel Morad and Jesse Lazare and Porsche factory ace Michael Christensen raced their way to victory in a field of 27 closely-matched GT3 cars in hazardous weather conditions to claim the team’s second class win in the storied 24-hour race.
The driving lineup was brimming with talent groomed in both of IMSA’s one-make Porsche Cup series.
Morad won the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada Platinum Class for the team in 2016, often competing against Lazare in crossover events with the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA, while Michael de Quesada won the Gold class of the U.S. championship.
What’s more, other than Carlos De Quesada himself, none of Alegra’s drivers at Daytona is older than 26.
The elder de Quesada, too, is a veteran of the one-make Porsche series having won the 2013 Gold class championship in Canada, and he said he knew where to look when it came to assembling his driving talent for an assault on the Rolex 24.
“Michael had won the Gold Class championship at Road Atlanta at the Petit Le Mans the last weekend, and Daniel and I were talking,” said the two-time Rolex 24 winner. “We had already planned to do [the Rolex 24], we had already ordered the car.
“We had everything set in motion, so we were just talking about what kind of drivers we would like to see in the car.
“We already knew it was going to be Daniel in the car and myself and Michael, and Daniel had said it would be really cool if we can go ahead and do all the class champions or just pick class champions from the IMSA Cup Series.
“So I was sitting at the dinner, at the banquet, and they gave all the awards out, and right when they gave Jesse’s last award, I leaned over to Daniel, I go, ‘Daniel, what do you think?’ He goes, ‘What?’ I go, .’What do you think if we got Jesse?’
“He goes, ‘That would be really cool, let’s do it!’
“So I went up on stage and I told everyone that I wanted to go ahead and make an announcement. No one knew. Jesse had no idea. And I brought him up on stage and asked him if he’d like to drive with us at this year’s 24 Hours at Daytona.”
De Quesada’s faith in his young co-drivers proved well placed as Christensen held off Christopher Mies in the Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS by just 0.293 seconds after 24 hours to seal the upset win in their Porsche 911 GT3 R.
It marked the second major 24-hour race win for the new-generation Porsche, both coming this month, following Herberth Motorsport’s victory in the 24 Hours of Dubai.
Alegra, meanwhile, is committed to running the four rounds of the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup, but the driver lineup remains uncertain for the remaining three races.
De Quesada added that he was very proud of putting the young group of drivers together and giving them a chance to show what they could do.
“I like helping young kids,” he said. “I watched the kids grow up through karting, watching my son, and I remember Daniel racing.
“We’d do all the winter tours and everything. And just that dream, the hopes of kids trying to get to the next level, and so I tried to do what I can.
“I’ve had Spencer Pigot driving my program, obviously Daniel Morad, and I’d like to just see their progression. It’s just so tough in this business, but I’m just glad that I was able to do this for these kids.”