Alegra Motorsports is ready with a new chassis for next weekend’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship round at Mid-Ohio following a heavy crash for the GT Daytona team at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Billy Johnson was a victim of circumstance when he was hit by Franck Perera’s Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo in Turn 3 and proceeded to make heavy contact with the barriers.
Johnson was uninjured but the Alegra Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo suffered extensive damage.
“It was pretty apparent as soon as we started pulling this car apart that we were bent beyond repair,” team manager Tony Ditto told Sportscar365. “Then you start the parts buying. It’s a whole ordeal.
“The factory will tell you that they want 12 weeks to get a car to you and we were trying to do it in just under four, so our work has really been cut out for us.”
Ditto said the process of ordering replacement parts looks surprisingly familiar to online shopping.
“Luckily Mercedes has made it very easy where they use a customer support portal,” he said. “Through that I can look up the manuals, I can look up the parts catalog, and there’s actually a shopping section!
“It sounds funny but you literally go to the shopping section and I can purchase any little bit for that Mercedes that I need.
“I put together a big order and if I have questions I can always call their parts guy Ryan Tyler, who is phenomenal.
“Once I have the bulk order and I’ve written down all of the parts numbers it’s just as easy, honestly, as clicking.
“It’s like Amazon for Mercedes-AMG parts! I have to say, those guys do whatever it takes to make sure that you get what you need right away.
“It was the same thing with the chassis, which we bought through this customer service portal. After showing them a few pictures they agreed that it was bent beyond repair.”
Mercedes was able to source a spare tub that was at Multimatic’s shop in Mooresville, N.C., which Ditto said helped speed up the process “by a ton.”
He estimated it took approximately 1,000 hours split between himself and two mechanics over four weeks to build up the car from a bare chassis that will be ready for Mid-Ohio.
“It’s not an easy process,” said Ditto. “When you get a bare chassis it is literally a bare chassis. There’s not a screw, a zip tie, not a single wire, nothing.
“You are building a car from scratch just like you would at the factory from the ground up. It’s pretty in depth.
“I’ve got two mechanics in the shop that do an amazing job with me. The first thing we do is we put both cars on the lift and you start stripping the first one.
“Little things like Ziplock baggies, anything you can do to mark and organize the parts, and anything that can safely be reused comes off and gets sorted.
“Once the first car is torn all the way down you can start assembling the other chassis side-by-side. That way if there’s any questions you have both cars right there.
“I’m very, very fortunate that our Alegra shop is very well lit, it’s very nice, and it has two lifts side by side so you can do this sort of thing.”
Daniel Morad and Michael de Quesada will pilot the team’s new No. 28 Mercedes next weekend.
Sebring Accident Was “Super Unfortunate”
Through the process, Ditto said that the frustration and expense of the Sebring accident were mitigated by the fact that the safety measures put in place functioned as they were designed and protected Johnson from suffering serious injury.
“Unfortunately we don’t know what happened [with the crash],” he said. “We think there was either a mistake there or maybe a failure with [the Lamborghini] or something. It was super unfortunate.
“We really felt like we had a car that could contend, but unfortunately we got taken out. We got blindsided really bad.
“I don’t want to point blame, it’s a dangerous sport and we know this can happen, but it’s one of those things where you have to roll with the punches but it’s very unfortunate because now we have to spend $100,000 to fix this car to be ready for the next race.
“Mercedes-AMG, the FIA, and IMSA have all done an amazing job to make sure that [Johnson] can hit the wall at that type of speed. The car hit the curbing and actually came up in the air, then hit the tire wall and moved the concrete barrier behind it about five feet.
“It’s unreal how those forces never really make it to the driver. The interior was in great shape, and we were able to reuse all of those parts. It’s amazing that the car is able to mold and bend in such a way that it protects the driver.”