Open-wheel castaway Daniel Morad spent nearly four years adrift before being thrown a career lifeline in sports car racing, and now has won in both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Pirelli World Challenge to emerge as a budding star of the sport.
The 27-year-old Canadian chased his open-wheel dream all the way to GP3 in 2011 before time and funding ran out, then spent the next four years stuck on the sidelines coaching drivers and helping at corporate driving events.
Four years later in 2015, at a private test at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park that may well have been the last chance to resuscitate his professional career and in a car unlike anything he had ever raced previously, Morad latched on to that lifeline and hauled himself ashore, establishing himself as a driver to watch whenever he’s in the field.
The opportunity to get back into a race seat came thanks to Carlos de Quesada and his Florida-based Alegra Motorsports team in IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Canada.
To hear him tell it, everything in Morad’s career to date had been building to that exact outcome.
“I did coaching in my four years off, and I did some corporate driving programs with several different manufacturers,” Morad told Sportscar365.
“It helped me I think because I understood myself better and I could understand the cars on a more technical level.
“Then 2015, I did a test with Alegra in the GT3 Cup car. I was doing the coaching and I learned a lot, but I wasn’t racing.
“I called up Alegra, they told me to send my CV, they looked at it and said, ‘You have a good CV, do you want to come meet us?’ So I took a flight the next day and flew down to Tampa.
“I had a six-hour meeting, did a shop tour, talked to them and they called me a week later and asked if I could test at [CTMP]. We went there, I did 10 laps, and after those 10 laps they signed me.”
That decision came just before the start of the season, and came with a personal sacrifice from the team’s patriarch.
“That was the Wednesday before the first [Porsche GT3 Cup Canada by Yokohama] race,” said Morad.
“Carlos was going to run that car, and he stepped out of the car and let me run it.
“Brand new car that he bought for himself, and he put me in it for nothing, just because he wanted to help a young guy get back into it.
“Carlos is like a dad to me. I actually stay at his house more than I do at my own, but it’s OK because it’s a nice house!”
Fast forward to this season, and Morad can call himself a class winner of the Rolex 24 at Daytona with Alegra, and is now a race winner in PWC after an impressive series debut alongside Ryan Dalziel for CRP Racing.
Morad said the start the season has been a dream come true.
“It’s pretty good considering it’s my first year of professional sports car racing!” he said. “The last two years have been building years for me getting back into the sport.
“Last year was great for me personally because we won two championships, the Porsche Cup Canada and North America, so that really gave me the confidence to step up into the big leagues starting with Daytona.
“You have big names out here, some of the best drivers in the world are racing here.
“It’s really satisfying to go up against the best of the best and show what you can do, especially after being out of it for so long and getting the opportunity to come back.”
Morad was adamant that he has found a home in sports car racing, and said unlike his open-wheel career, he was finding an enjoyment in his racing that is fulfilling unto itself.
“I’m just having fun,” said Morad. “When I was racing before [on the open-wheel ladder], I had a lot of pressure. I had some really big sponsors, I was in a couple of Formula 1 junior teams, and it just didn’t work out for business and political reasons.
“There’s always been so much pressure on me to perform.
“I see myself in [sports car racing] long term, hopefully with Porsche. I really love the brand and the brand values.
“Everything about it is about family. It was built on family values and remains that to this day.
“It’s like Alegra Motorsports, it’s a family I think I do well in family environments. I like everything about it.”