Daniel Morad will replace the injured Lucas Auer in Winward Racing’s GTD lineup for this weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, joining Philip Ellis, Indy Dontje and team principal/driver Russell Ward at the wheel of a spare Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo in the GTD class.
The Gold-rated Canadian, who won last year’s Indianapolis 8 Hour powered by AWS with fellow Mercedes-AMG squad Craft-Bamboo Racing, has joined Winward this year for its Michelin Pilot Challenge GS class effort.
“He performed incredibly well at Indianapolis last year and is all around a solid guy,” Ward told Sportscar365. “We’re looking forward to having him in the car.
“It was just the right fit. Thanks to him for stepping up to a big challenge. He hasn’t been in the [GT3] car since Indianapolis.
“He’s going to have to step it up big time in the race. But Daniel is magic.”
Ward confirmed that Auer, who sustained “significant” injuries to his back in a crash during Thursday’s opening practice, underwent surgery this morning at Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Fla.
“I’m just thankful that Lucas is at least speaking and is alive and has full control of all of his limbs,” Ward said. “I think that’s the important thing.
“I know he’s in a lot of pain and had some surgery this morning. We don’t have an update on how it went but I know he’s got some of the best doctors in the world, especially at Halifax.
“It’s a really prestigious place. They’ve dealt with these type of things several times a year. He’s in the best hands he can be in, which is good.”
Morad’s first laps in the team’s spare Mercedes will likely come in the race itself, with Ward confirming it won’t be ready for this morning’s final GTD practice session.
Members of the Texas-based squad flew back to its shop last night to retrieve the car and embarked on a 1,000-mile journey to Daytona. Ward said the car is due to arrive by 11:30 a.m. ET.
Per IMSA regulations, the spare chassis will have to be stripped and replaced with as many components from the crashed car as possible.
“It should be here soon, unloaded and [we] get on with it,” Ward said. “We have to change over a lot of stuff.
“We’re going to change over pretty much everything we can that we know is going to be reliable and safe for the 24 hours and go from there.
“We’ll be working through the night. It just depends. It’s hard to plan everything perfectly.
“I think we’ll be done hopefully by midnight tonight, maybe a little earlier. The expectations I was given would be 10 p.m., which is a little optimistic.
“I know they’re going to be working to get it done and everybody’s in good spirits.”
Ward said he’s hoping that IMSA will allow for a hardship lap tomorrow morning prior to the start of the Florida endurance classic.
With the chassis change, the team will relinquish first place starting position in GTD and will line up from the rear of the 61-car field.
“What we want to do is do a systems check on the car and just bleed the brakes on the car,” Ward said.
“We’re fighting to see what we can get but it will be tough. It’s a busy day tomorrow and we’re racing at 1:40 [p.m.]. Maybe we get the chance, maybe we won’t.
“It’s not the first time we’ve started in the back. We started in the back at Sebring and were leading the race three hours in. It’s just a task to overcome and we’re all prepared and ready.
“We’ve got a fast crew and a good bunch of pit stoppers so we’ll just see what we can do.”