Winward Racing Drives through Large GTD Field to Win

IMSA Photo

By Jeff Olson

IMSA Wire Service

You’ll forgive Daniel Morad if he was a bit emotional at the end of the race. It’s not often that one wins the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Morad led a come-from-behind effort by Winward Racing and teammates Philip Ellis, Russell Ward and Indy Dontje by anchoring the final hours of the team’s Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) class victory in the No. 57 Mercedes-AMG GT3. 

“I’ve won it before sitting on the sidelines and now I’ve won it in the seat of the car,” Morad said. “I almost crashed on the in-lap (after the checkered flag), I was crying so much. My voice is gone. I think I hurt myself as well.”

There’s a reason for the emotion. The No. 57 Mercedes started 17th among the 23 GTD entries, yet soldiered through the field to victory, ending a run of bad luck that clouded Winward’s 2023 WeatherTech Championship season.

While 12 different GTD cars led throughout the race, the No. 57 Mercedes rose to the top toward the end, leading 123 of the final 134 laps and a class-high 383 in all. Morad’s previous Rolex 24 victory came in GTD seven years ago. Ward, Ellis and Dontje were all with the class-winning Winward team in 2021.

Ferrari claimed second through fourth places Sunday in GTD. The No. 21 AF Corse Ferrari 296 GT3 co-driven by Simon Mann, Francois Heriau, Miguel Molina and Kei Cozzolino finished second, 2.731 seconds behind the winners. The No. 34 Conquest Racing Ferrari 296 GT3 co-driven by Manny Franco, Albert Costa Balboa, Alessandro Balzan and Cedric Sbirrazzuoli was third, with the No. 023 Triarsi Competizione Ferrari 296 GT3 and drivers Onofrio Triarsi, Charles Scardina, Riccardo Agostini and Alessio Rovera taking fourth.

In the final hour, the pole-winning No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 stopped with smoke pouring from beneath its hood. Parker Thompson emerged safely and tried to extinguish the fire, but the car was retired and finished 15th in class.

The ensuing caution brought the field back together for the final minutes, but Morad turned his extended stint in the car to a 2.731-second class victory.

“Incredible team, perfect car today,” Morad said. 

The WeatherTech Championship season resumes March 16 with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway.

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