Rolex 24 GTD – 1.29.17.doc







THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, we are joined now by our GT Daytona class winners in the 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona, the season opener for the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, drivers of the No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT 3R: Carlos de Quesada, Daniel Morad, Jesse Lazare, Michael de Quesada and Michael Christensen.
This is the second Rolex 24 victory for Alegra Motorsports and Carlos. They also won in 2007 in the GT class. First Rolex 24 win for Michael Christensen. This is his fifth Rolex 24 start, and for the other three drivers, this was their first Rolex 24 start.
Jesse Lazare is the 2016 IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama Platinum Cup champion. Michael de Quesada is the 2016 Porsche GT3 Cup USA by Yokohama Golf Cup Champion, and Daniel is the 2016 IMSA Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama Platinum champion.
Congratulations to them. This is also the 69th victory for Porsche in the Rolex 24, 47th class victory in the Rolex 24. Carlos, you’ve been here before, but it’s been a little while. Congratulations, and tell us how it feels to have assembled this team and really made the decision to invest in these young drivers to get them here to the top step of the podium at the Rolex 24.
CARLOS De QUESADA: Well, no, I’m obviously very excited to be here. Ten years ago we won the 24 hours, and it was just something that ‑‑ it was just unbelievable for us. We had the right team, the right drivers, the right equipment. Everything after that is luck. I told these guys the same thing.
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. 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. We went to the first test, they performed extremely well. They slowly built up to it. They always listen. You can tell them time and time again how many bad incidents can happen out there on the track, and they were just so cautious. They listened, they weren’t pushing the car too hard. They were being safe with it, and what more can you ask from these kids. They clicked off the lap times and kept the car safe the whole time. There’s not one scratch on our car, which I think back in 2007 we had a front bumper and a bunch of stuff missing on that car. I really give it to these kids. They did a great job. I call Michael Christensen, man, what a performance by this driver. He got in the car with less than three hours to go and just performed flawlessly, not one mistake. All the pressure was on him, and just the fact that he performed like that with all that pressure really was just incredible to watch.
THE MODERATOR: Daniel, congratulations, first time here at the Rolex 24 and you take home a watch. Tell us what that means to you.
DANIEL MORAD: I mean, it’s more than just material for sure. The watches ‑‑ I’m not going to say no to it. Who would, right? That’s what we’re here for. But it’s extremely special. Going back to 2015, leading up to this season, I hadn’t raced for four years, and prior to that I was racing in Europe actually against Michael in the GP3 series. It’s funny that we meet again, and this time thankfully in our car, because with a drive like that I wouldn’t want to drive against you. He just showed his class. He’s a true legend, and one of the best sports car racers in the world, and he showed that today.
But it’s a team effort, really. 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. 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. Just like he mentioned, he explained how anything can go wrong and just remove yourself from those dangerous situations, set everything up for the end.
And also Michael, he has a ton of experience. He’s done Le Mans twice, he’s raced the Rolex 24 twice and shared his wealth of knowledge with us, with us young guns, even though I’m the same age as Michael. But yeah, also Michael de Quesada and Jesse Lazare, just unbelievable drive. I think Michael de Quesada might be the youngest winner in the history of this race. I don’t know by how many years. You might be able to tell me.
THE MODERATOR: We will have to research that a little bit before we have a full answer. I’m sure it’s very close if not a record, so we’ll get that information and share it with you and the rest of the group here.
DANIEL MORAD: Before I stop talking because I love talking, in case you haven’t noticed, I just want to really say thanks to the team. Every single member of that team, whether they were moving tires from Continental and bringing them to our tent or changing tires, doing driver changes, every single member performed immaculately and perfectly and without them, we wouldn’t have been in this situation. We got into a very difficult spot in the race where we went a few laps down, and the team made some excellent calls and they were just flawless in the pit stops, and that last one specifically, that won us the race, aside from Michael’s brilliant drive.
THE MODERATOR: Let’s move over to Michael de Quesada, who we can definitively say was the youngest driver in this weekend’s field. Michael, congratulations on this victory, again, very early on obviously in your motorsports career, but pretty big feather in your cap already I would imagine.
MICHAEL De QUESADA: Yeah, yeah, it was incredible. 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, would you say? 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.
THE MODERATOR: Let’s move over to Jesse Lazare. As Carlos mentioned a few minutes ago, you weren’t part of this team last year, but obviously your talent in the GT Cup Challenge USA obviously got you to this point. Can you talk a little bit about just how that latter really was a success obviously in getting you here to win this race today?
JESSE LAZARE: Yes, I’m very thankful that IMSA puts a great GT3 Cup program together and they’ve been doing this for so many years, and the fact they had joint races between the Canadian series and the American series 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. I wasn’t expecting any of this, to be on the podium or win. I just wanted to go here and learn as much as I can. But the more I found out about Alegra Motorsports and how they work perfectly together, and they’re just one family with drivers that Carlos picked. Dan, I knew since I started karting when I was eight years old. He was already a star. Michael I’ve raced against in karting. We were always around the same age. And Michael Christensen, I was always a huge Porsche fan and he was always one of the favorites. So when I found out the lineup, I knew we had a good shot and I’m so thankful to be here, and I can’t wait to see what comes after this.
THE MODERATOR: Before we move over to Michael Christensen, just to back up for one second, Carlos, could you talk about how this program kind of came to life literally at the awards banquet.
CARLOS De QUESADA: Yeah, so Michael had won the gold class championship at Road Atlanta at the Petit Le Mans the last weekend, and Daniel and I were talking, we had already planned to do Daytona, we had already ordered the car. We had everything set in motion, so we were just talking about what kind of drivers we would like to see in the car. We already knew it was going to be Daniel in the car and myself and Michael, and Daniel had said, you know, it would be really cool if we can go ahead and do all the class champions or just pick class champions from the IMSA Cup Series.
So I was sitting at the dinner, at the banquet, and they gave all the awards out, and right when they gave Jesse’s last award, I leaned over to Daniel, I go, Daniel, what do you think? He goes, what? I go, what do you think if we got Jesse ‑‑
CARLOS De QUESADA: He goes, that would be really cool, let’s do it. So I went up on stage and I told everyone that I wanted to go ahead and make an announcement. No one knew. Jesse had no idea. And I brought him up on stage and asked him if he’d like to drive with us at this year’s 24 Hours at Daytona.
DANIEL MORAD: He said no at first. He had to twist his arm.
CARLOS De QUESADA: But I always believed ‑‑ I like helping young kids. I watched the kids grow up through karting, watching my son, and I remember Daniel racing. We’d do all the winter tours and everything. And just that dream, the hopes of kids trying to get to the next level, and so I tried to do what I can. I’ve always had Spencer Pigot driving my program, obviously Daniel Morad, and I’d like to just see their progression go, and it’s just so tough in this business, but I’m just glad that I was able to do this for these kids.
THE MODERATOR: Michael Christensen, over to you. You obviously brought it home for the team here this afternoon. Clearly it was a team effort, but you were the guy at the wheel when the checkered flag dropped. Describe the feeling of pulling it off here.
MICHAEL CHRISTENSEN: It was great. To be honest, it was a long plan, really. We all sat together and spoke about what we thought of the race itself, what do we need to do to be successful here, and we all were having the same thoughts, don’t touch anyone, be careful, it’s a long race, and everyone ‑‑ most guys out there are pushing hard at certain times of the race, especially a race with weather conditions like that. It’s really tough just to keep it on track, and yeah, our plan was to stay on the lead lap and have a perfect race car for the end of the race.
To be honest, we just brought our plan to life.

Q. Carlos, I believe this program is confirmed for Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup races; is that right?

CARLOS De QUESADA: Yes, that’s right?

Q. Have you decided on the driver lineup?

CARLOS De QUESADA: Not yet. We’re still working on that. But yeah, I’ve got ‑‑

Q. Is there a potential for additional races beyond that ‑‑

CARLOS De QUESADA: If I could buy three cars, I’d have everyone plus other drivers that I’d love to have.
No, it’s just a very difficult choice for me because there’s so many ‑‑ I’d love to have everyone here driving that car. Unfortunately it’s a three‑driver race, and it’s one of those decisions that I’ve got to go ahead and make.

Q. Daniel, when you look at ‑‑ you did, I think, a one‑off DP race with Carlos last year at Sebring, but otherwise you’ve been primarily single make with Porsche or you did the NASCAR one off last year. Jumping into this GTD field, 27 cars, nine manufacturers, what was kind of the prep work you got from the team in understanding how different this type of racing is versus single make?

DANIEL MORAD: Well, I mean, it went from no make, to be honest, to single make, and then Carlos gave me that opportunity to drive at Sebring last year. I mean, the race was going well there. Unfortunately we had to retire about halfway through the race with electrical issues. We managed to finish the race at the end. But now doing this, it’s a change from Cup racing for sure because in Cup racing it’s 45 minutes, you have an equal car or more‑or‑less equal with minimal changes you can make. So it’s really a fight from the moment the green flag drops. So it’s quite different from this because when the green flag drops here, everyone is going crazy, but you just have to tell yourself, like Michael told everyone before, we had a plan not to touch anybody, bring the car back as perfect as possible.
It’s not always easy, especially with the difficult conditions like in the middle of the night with heavy rain. Yeah, I mean, it’s different for sure because you have prototypes on the track. You have PC cars, you have GTLM and GT Daytona class, as well, with 27 different cars, nine manufacturers, and I have to honestly take my hat off, I did already, for IMSA, because that’s not an easy task what they face to try to get the balance of performance as equal as possible. You guys saw at the end of the race, it was pretty stellar. Amazing finish. For me it’s a classic. I don’t know about you guys.
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. Carlos, as well, he’s a 2013 champion in Canada, masters or ‑‑
CARLOS De QUESADA: Gold class.
DANIEL MORAD: Gold class champion. 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.

Q. Michael Christensen, congratulations. Looking at the total time, at the end it was very close to the second car, the Audi R8 of Land‑Motorsport. How nerve‑racking was it to find yourself at that stage of the race? And your co‑driver mentioned you did GP3 over in Europe. What brought you back to America and GT racing?

MICHAEL CHRISTENSEN: To start with your first question, yeah, it was quite nerve‑racking. Obviously it was very close, and I knew that I was a bit better than the Audi when the tires were cold or after a restart, so I really just tried to build a gap. Also, we were actually saving a bit of fuel out of the pits because we were very close to the limit and making it. I was pulling the gap, and I was just trying to save fuel. Suddenly the Land‑Motorsport car came close to me again, and I was like, I have to push now. Luckily at that stage there was enough fuel saving, but in the end there was another caution so it wouldn’t have mattered in the end. But yeah, many different things happened the last hour, but everything played well, and I knew that if I could just maintain the gap or at least get good access down the straight, I would be fine. So it was a matter of not doing a mistake really.
Coming to your second question, yeah, what brought me to GT racing? It was Porsche junior program. Basically trying to reach Formula 1, have a Formula 1 career in younger years was also my dream. But I early realized that financial ‑‑ the costs to get there, just to get there, was not possible for me. I was looking into other things, and luckily I got picked in the Porsche junior program, and I worked with these guys in the Porsche junior program for two years, and finally Porsche decided to bring us ‑‑ step me up to a Porsche works driver. I’ve really taken the Porsche ladder. Yeah, just trying to set a dream a little bit out of focus, but instead have life go into focus. So yeah, I really pushed for being a works driver since I got in touch with Porsche as I saw it was a great family, and I really wanted that since the first day.

Q. Carlos, can you just share with us and can the team share with us, you folks did a brilliant job of delivering that perfect car unscratched to Michael for the last two hours and he was basically able to unwind from seventh to first and then run away. Can you talk about what was going on in the background as far as getting the car there, and set up with the changing conditions and Spencer Pumpelly, who showed up sort of at the last minute to help with strategy and management?

CARLOS De QUESADA: Yeah, I mean, I got to really hand it to Spencer Pumpelly for coming on board like he did to help us out. He had offered his services, and Larry Hahn has been my engineer for many years now. Prior to that, he was with PTG working for the BMW team. The wealth of experience that Larry brings is just unbelievable. But when Spencer offered his services, he approached me and asked, I’d like to have him. I think he would be a tremendous help. So I was like, absolutely. I’ve known Spencer and raced against him many years, and he’s definitely a tremendous asset.
It was great because between Larry and Spencer, they were sitting there trading back and forth thoughts and working together on strategy, and it was just amazing to watch those two guys work together like they did. I mean, there was some calls that we could have made that could have gone the other way, and just the decision between the two really played in our favor.
But really, a lot of that came from experience. It really worked out.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations. Thanks for joining us.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports.

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