The trio of Indy Dontje, Philip Ellis and Russell Ward were part both winning squads, but this latest one featured Daniel Morad, who closed out the contest in the No. 57 Mercedes AMG GT3.
It was a commanding performance by the foursome, which were steadily in command, especially throughout the backend of IMSA’s season opening endurance classic. However, it didn’t come without some drama as a roughly 30s lead was swept away by the final caution and added pressure in the final half hour.
In the end, though, Morad was able to hold serve and win by 2.731s over the No. 21 AF Corse Ferrari 296 GT3 of Kei Cozzolino, Francois Heriau, Simon Mann and Miguel Molina.
“Obviously, I wanted it to be an easy victory,” said Morad, who also GTD class win at Daytona with Alegra Motorsports in 2017.
“We all did an amazing job building the gaps throughout all the stints. It wasn’t just me. It was every single person on the team, engineering staff. The whole prep on the car was phenomenal. A lot easier this year than last year having a car that was designed for the race.
“But if that didn’t happen, then I probably wouldn’t be here right now. Everything happens for a reason, and I’m super pumped to be driving with these guys. We all did this together. It wasn’t one specific person. We all put in a hell of an effort.”
Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images
#57 WINWARD Racing Mercedes AMG GT3: Russell Ward, Philip Ellis, Indy Dontje, Daniel Morad
Ward referenced the effort put in at the BoP (Balance of Performance) test ahead of the twice-around-the-clock. While that helped the car come alive into the night, part of that was aided by the new tire compound.
“We had a bit of an advantage there and got to experience the new tire, which was quite a bit different from last year’s tire,” Ward said.
“We just kind of set the call for the long run. That’s what we all like, and it’s nice to put a fast lap together, but at the end of the day, you just want to be good on the long run. I think the engineers did a great job of doing that.”
And now with two wins for Winward around Daytona International Speedway’s 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course since 2021, Ward suggested it demonstrates the mentality of the team.
“It’s a constant evolution in racing,” Ward said.
“If you’re not pushing the limits and trying to improve every year and someone else is, someone else is going to beat you.
“That’s kind of the passion that we have. We’ve had a pretty consistent crew over the past five years who have stayed with us and really helped us be successful. We try to keep the same drivers on board. We want to develop as a team and move forward as one.
“This one is pretty special to me. The first one wasn’t luck, of course. Everybody put their work in. But to come here and do it again, we’ve been pretty close the past two years, but just really haven’t had the luck to get it done, and to come back and close it off for the second time in 2024 is a great feeling.”
Ward went on to note the biggest reason to how they were able to score the victory, saying: “The key to winning this race is just keeping the car clean. The car that we won in 2021 is sitting in the shop in the same condition without a scratch on it, and this one, likewise, not a scratch on it. Really awesome to see it.”