Daniel Morad thought he was on the fast track to Formula One back in 2008.
He was 18 and had just won a prominent North American junior open-wheel championship in 2007. He was headed to Europe and around the world to race in the A1GP and GP3 international open-wheel series, both proving grounds for future F1 drivers.
He was a member of the Red Bull Junior Team, which has groomed 12 drivers who reached F1 in the last decade. He won a karting World Championship in 2010 in Italy.
Then his F1 dream ended in 2011. Commercial pressures and realities forced Morad from GP3 and Indy Lights, and he spent the next three years working as a driver coach with Audi and Volkswagen in Canada.
Morad, from the Toronto suburb of Thornhill, Ontario, enjoyed teaching performance driving. But something gnawed at his competitive soul.
“I learned a lot and matured as a person and as a driver,” Morad says of his teaching role. “But is it ultimately what I want to do in my 20s? No. I just turned 25. I’m at the peak of my career.
“I think I would be wasting my abilities and all of the support I’ve had since I was eight-years-old to not go racing. Teaching people is fun; I’ll continue to do that. But I just felt like I was rotting away not being in a race car.”
Morad started making phone calls in April 2015 and found an ideal stage for his second act as a race driver – the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin.
He contacted Alegra/Porsche Centre Oakville Motorsports team manager Andy Greene on a cold call, and Morad and the team clicked. Morad and Alegra/Porsche Centre Oakville Motorsports owner Carlos de Quesada quickly came to an agreement for the 2015 season, and Morad’s racing career was reignited, this time as a GT sports car driver.
Morad wasted little time showing his skill. He finished third overall in the first two rounds of the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin during the Victoria Day SpeedFest weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
They were the first two races of his life in a vehicle with fenders. He had turned just 25 laps in testing of Alegra/Porsche Centre Oakville’s No. 22 Platinum Cup car since signing with the team.
“The Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin series is a really good foundation series for learning all the fundamentals of GT racing, what it takes to be successful and quick,” Morad says. “Surrounding myself with a great team like Alegra/Porsche Centre Oakville Motorsports has been pretty crucial for me. I wanted to make sure that when I came into my sports car career that it was with the right team and the right atmosphere. I couldn’t be happier.”
There is one other big difference to this new phase of Morad’s career besides driving a sports car. Time finally is on his side.
When climbing the open-wheel ladder, Morad was an impetuous teenager, wanting to reach the top yesterday. The European junior open-wheel scene is notoriously cutthroat on and off the track, with talented drivers who hit age 20 without reaching F1 often spit out as surplus goods.
Morad was on that hyper-accelerated path. Now he wants to slow down, savor these moments racing in his native country and ensure he advances his sports car career at a more methodical pace.
“This is definitely a second chance for me,” he says. “I was trying to run some endurance stuff, the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Le Mans, the European Le Mans Series, but I’d like to take it slow. You have a little bit more time in sports car racing.
“Look at the super-quick guys, Tom Kristensen or Allan McNish. They were in their 40s and winning Le Mans.”
“I don’t think there’s any rush, and I want to take the right steps. I want to learn at the right speed. I don’t want to rush into things. In the past, I went from Formula BMW to A1 GP. That’s a big jump. It was a lot to learn when I was 17, especially with all the pressure. So this time around, I’m going to take all the necessary steps.”
Don’t let that more measured approach deceive. Morad hasn’t lost his competitive edge and is more eager to win than ever during his second chance at elite-level motorsports.
“You’d have to check my pulse if I said I want to finish second,” he says. “I’d like to win the championship. That’s my goal. That’s why I’m here. Alegra/Porsche Centre Oakville Motorsports brought me in to win the Platinum class championship.”
Fast forward a few weeks to rounds three and four, which took place during the Honda Indy Toronto race weekend on the 11-turn, 2.824-km circuit at Exhibition Place. Morad has returned to his winning ways following a magisterial drive in heavy rain to earn his first career Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin victory in just his fourth start in the series.
“I just paced myself in the beginning,” he recalls. “I got into a groove, and eventually I found the grip on the track and started to attack, take them one by one. That doesn’t happen every day, one of those runs where you can just walk away from the field in one lap. So it’s a very special moment for me.”
Round 3 winner Scott Hargrove, from Surrey, British Columbia, finished second in the No. 25 OpenRoad Racing Porsche. Championship leader Chris Green, from Montreal, finished third in the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car.
Platinum Masters points leader Marco Cirone, from Toronto, rebounded from a seventh-place finish in Round 3 on Saturday to finish fourth in the No. 88 Mark Motors Racing entry. He also was the leading Platinum Masters finisher.
Hargrove started on the pole and had built a six-second lead over Green just six minutes into the race. Morad started third, but had dropped to fourth behind Cirone on the first lap. But he started to get comfortable with driving his Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car on the wet track and began to gain ground.
Morad passed Cirone for third just 10 minutes in, and began to gobble chunks of time away from Hargrove and Green.
“I got by him at the start,” Cirone says of Morad. “I thought I had a great start, and then he was just all over my mirrors in a couple of laps, I said, ‘Oh my God, this guy’s unbelievable.’”
Morad then set his sights on Green and passed him with 17 minutes left in Turn 6 after the pair made side-by-side contact. Morad then started a breathtaking charge at Hargrove, running laps nearly two seconds quicker than the leader.
Six minutes later, Morad had driven around Hargrove for the lead in Turn 8, with 11 minutes, 30 seconds left in the shortened (from 45 to 30 minutes) race. Morad then built up a 2.5-second lead over the next 1.5 laps, padding that lead to 6.071 seconds by the start of the final lap.
It was a stunning arrival for Morad, when one considers that he hadn’t raced anything professionally since 2011 and is new to GT racing.
“I’m very surprised,” says Morad. “This is my first time driving in the rain in a GT car. I had to learn a little bit. I was quick in open wheel (in the rain), and it looks like that transitioned into GT cars.”
Morad’s return lends further credence to an old motorsports axiom – once a racer, always a racer.