Carlos de Quesada surprised a room full of fellow competitors, team members, officials, family and friends in October 2016 when he announced at the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama awards ceremony at Road Atlanta that his team, Alegra Motorsports, would field a GT Daytona entry in the 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona.
The driver lineup was even more surprising. De Quesada was relying on young Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge champions Daniel Morad, Jesse Lazare and Michael de Quesada to handle the driving along with himself.
But that announcement was just a ripple compared to the seismic shock the team sprung on the racing world Jan. 29 at Daytona International Speedway.
Alegra Motorsports pulled off a stirring victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona in its No. 28 Porsche 911 GT3 R, taking the lead in the last hour of the 24-hour endurance classic. Porsche factory driver Michael Christensen of Denmark, 26, added to the team a few weeks before the race, held off the No. 29 Audi R8 LMS GT3 by just .293 of a second after 24 hours of racing in the ultra-competitive GTD class. It was the closest margin of victory in any of the four classes competing in the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) WeatherTech SportsCar Championship endurance classic.
“When I assembled this team, we ran Daniel Morad with Alegra Motorsports up in Canada and he won the Platinum Cup championship up there along with the North American Cup championship, and then Michael, my son, went ahead and won the Gold class in the USA,” Carlos de Quesada said. “Because we were also running some USA Cup races, Daniel and Jesse Lazare were racing against each other and we were watching Jesse race, and just the quality of driver that he is, we decided to go ahead and invite him to drive with us for the 24 hours.
“It's just been amazing. I can't believe that actually we're sitting here. I'm still in shock right now, so just bear with me. These kids were just unbelievable.”
The three young Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge champion drivers in the team – Morad, from Toronto, is 26; Lazare, from Montreal, is 19; and Michael de Quesada, from Tampa, Florida, is 17 – helped Alegra finish the 24-hour race with barely a scratch on its Porsche. The victory was the second in the Rolex 24 At Daytona for Tampa-based Alegra, as Carlos de Quesada also drove to the winner’s circle with his team in 2007.
Morad’s magic carpet ride with Alegra reached new heights with the victory. 2013 Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama Gold Cup champion Carlos de Quesada revived the racing career of former open-wheel standout Morad with an offer to drive his Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car in the Canadian series in 2015. Morad won the Platinum Cup championship in the series in 2016 after a tough battle with 2014 champion Scott Hargrove.
“Carlos gave all of us the opportunity when no one would, no team owner would take the risk on four young drivers and put them together,” Morad said. “But I think we were one of the only cars that had not a single scratch on it. We might need new vinyl or a new wrap, but I think the car is immaculate, and that all stems down from Carlos with his experience and his knowledge, also winning this race before.
“You guys saw at the end of the race: It was pretty stellar. Amazing finish. For me, it's a classic. I thought that IMSA did an awesome job, and that stems down a little bit further down to their IMSA development series where most of us have come from. IMSA has really been the platform for us, and it's quite fitting that we're here now and we're running the top-flank series.”
Lazare honed his skills for three seasons in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama, breaking through with a dominant Platinum Cup championship in 2016 in a car fielded by Kelly-Moss Road and Race. Lazare also was quick to praise the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge series as essential preparation for his successful WeatherTech Championship debut at Daytona.
“I'm very thankful that IMSA puts a great GT3 Cup program together, and they've been doing this for so many years,” Lazare said. “The fact they had joint races between the Canadian series and the American series (in 2016) gave great competition, and teams got to meet each other and new teams met new drivers, and we just were able to build a great relationship.
“And then at Road Atlanta when Dan came down to compete in the last race of the U.S. championship, he had a great race, and what Carlos did for me at the banquet was something I'm going to remember for the rest of my life.”
Michael de Quesada continued his rocket ride in North American sports car racing by earning a Rolex Cosmograph Daytona watch presented to all class winners in the prestigious sports car race.
De Quesada finished a narrow second in the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama Gold Cup class in 2015 as a 15-year-old debutant in sports car racing. He then shifted his attention to the USA series in 2016 and won the Gold Cup class at age 16.
And now he’s a Rolex 24 champion while still a high school student in the Tampa area.
“It was incredible,” de Quesada said. “When my dad won it in 2007, I was there and I was there with him every year that he did it pretty much since I was born. And being here today on the podium, getting that watch is just the most incredible feeling. I don't even know how to describe it.
“My teammates, they're amazing. Mike, Dan, Jesse, my dad, everybody did so well, and I'm just so thankful.”
Alegra Motorsports plans on competing in the GTD class with its Porsche 911 GT3 R at the four Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup events this season – the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida, the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen and the Motul Petit Le Mans. The team’s next start will be March 15-18 in the 12-hour classic at Sebring, Florida.