Morad (left) and Dalziel (right). Photo: PWC

PWC: New lease on life in Daniel Morad’s ‘State of Moradness’

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As he prepares to race in the Pirelli World Challenge SprintX races at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park this weekend, it’s a welcome relief for 27-year-old Toronto native Daniel Morad that he’s rolling with opportunities that a few years ago seemed remote at best.

Morad and fellow open-wheel convert Ryan Dalziel share the No. 2 CRP Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GT Pro/Pro division of the championship, which are 60-minute races with a mandatory driver stop.

How Morad even got the ride was a bit surprising to begin with – he beat out numerous talented others in consideration – and then he beat one of Mercedes, and sports car racing’s most talented drivers in Jeroen Bleekemolen in identical equipment to secure his first win in his first weekend.

Photo: PWC

“CRP and I had talked for months; Ron Fellows had recommended me to the team after Daytona,” Morad told NBC Sports. “I told Nick Short, the team owner, I was so prepared to do my best if I got the job. We’d had about two hours worth of talking and that was all we went on, but it must have been a good impression!

“Between Ron endorsing me and Dave Empringham also having a say, I got the call Friday before the race and it was ‘Hey, the ride’s yours.’

“So I get announced Monday on my birthday… then Tuesday or Wednesday I’m already doing media with the car, having not driven it! It was pretty cool the fact my name was on top of the car.”

Morad and Dalziel were unfortunate to lose a win in the first SprintX race of the weekend, owing to a pit lane timing infraction that also caught six other GT class cars out.

As a recompense because of confusion about how so many teams were caught out by the 60-second combined pit lane time between the 30-second mandatory pit stop time and additional 30-seconds on pit lane, PWC series officials added a two-second joker time to ensure there wouldn’t be infractions in the second race.

“Saturday for us was strange and disjointed,” Morad explained. “Initially the pro/pro class was going to have an open pit time, and that would have been a bit dangerous if some teams did 25-second stops versus 15 seconds – you’ll never make that up.

“And some cars are easier to get in and out of than others. Bentley, for instance, is right-hand drive so it can go straight in. The Ferrari looked easy. Cadillac? They had to take the wheel off. For us it’s a tight greenhouse and entry point. The Porsche, by contrast, had a sliding seat. So since every car is unique, the only way to police it was a 30-second pit stop plus a 30-second delta. But it only took 23 for the pit lane!

“On Saturday, we had an 11-second lead before a safety car. I started opening up the gap to (Jorg) Bergmeister, then we had a drive-through because we didn’t stop long enough… and so did seven or eight other cars. It was heat of the moment and without a proper system yet determined, it ruined a lot of team’s races.”

Morad bounced back in a big way on Sunday with a star drive as he led Bleekemolen and the rest of the field in his stint.

Pirelli World Challenge, Virginia International Raceway, Allton, VA, April 2017. (Photo by Brian Cleary/bcpix.com)

“Sunday we rectified by winning convincingly,” he said. “I had a few tenths in the bag if not more (over Jeroen). Our car was so hooked up that day! Not only is the platform is great but balance is perfect. Jeroen was pushing really hard and I was not… so it looked closer than it was.

“For me personally it was a great chance to show that I can drive as well as anyone could out there. I was managing my tires, I drove the pace I needed to drive and to give Ryan the best car. I didn’t want to burn the tires before a safety car. I left everyone by 1.5 seconds afterwards. That’s what I wanted to say; the best way to silence any critics is to put the right foot down.”

Morad and Dalziel come from similar backgrounds in that they were talents on the open-wheel ladder before shifting to sports cars. Morad’s was a circuitous route after winning the 2007 Formula BMW Americas championship – ahead of Esteban Gutierrez and Alexander Rossi among others – through GP3, Atlantics, A1GP (below, in 2009) and Indy Lights, but timing and budget never presented itself for more.

TAUPO, NEW ZEALAND – JANUARY 24: Daniel Morad of Lebanon in action during the third official prctice session for the New Zealand A1 Grand Prix at the Taupo Race Track January 24, 2009 in Taupo, New Zealand. (Photo by Ross Land/Getty Images)

Dalziel’s timing was similar. Talented enough to make it to Champ Car, Dalziel won races in Atlantics for several years but again fell victim to timing more than anything. So Morad always witnessed Dalziel’s development and success on track, but only has gotten to know him recently.

“Ryan is such a good teammate,” Morad said of the Florida-based Scot. “We’d crossed paths in the past but I’d never rally spoken to Ryan. He’s not much older – he’s 35 to my 27 – so he’s 8 years older.

“But it’s enough to the point, when he was in Champ Car, I was in FBMW. He did a really good job.

“I really respected him. When I heard I’d potentially drive with him I was stoked; you want to drive with the best and learn as much as you can. Ryan is one of the best out there. He’s such a good ambassador of the sport. He welcomed me with open arms, and he didn’t make me feel an outsider. You can see why he’s one of the best in the sport.”

On the whole, it was a call from Carlos de Quesada that Morad him back from the brink after a roughly four-year hiatus from racing and provided him an opportunity to race Porsches, where Morad has since starred. Between championships in single-make Porsche Cup series and a win at this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona with a Porsche 911 GT3 R, Morad has been the driver that de Quesada has built his team around.

Morad’s season is IMSA is evolving on a race-to-race basis – the team plans to race for at least another couple events before determining whether it can grow into a full season – but in PWC, he’s set for the four remaining SprintX weekends with Dalziel.

Coming to CTMP this weekend, it’s a chance for him to race on home soil. Morad has hailed Fellows and Empringham as mentors among others, and now he’s also joined his open-wheel rising stars James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens in making it years later after coming up through the ranks.

“Ron Fellows has been one of the biggest mentors for me,” he explained. “He guided me in Formula BMW and helped to suggest the sports car stuff in GT3 Cup. Scott Goodyear as well has been amazing. I worked with him at the Audi driving experience (in Canada); he was chief driving instructor. I learned more from him off the track, in how to be a professional; he’s the ultimate professional. He’s so polished.

“As Canadians, we’re all such a tight-knit community. We all stay in touch.

“Hinch and I are friends. Wickens and I though, it’s funny, we’ve grown up racing each other since we were 9. We had sleepovers when we were kids! He was in Guelph, an hour and a bit from Toronto. He’d play EA Sports NASCAR games or play hockey in the winter… because it’s Canada. We still stay in touch; I watch his DTM races when I can.”

And then there’s Morad’s other emerging passion – he’s a DJ, and quickly becoming better known for that along with his driving within the sports car paddock.

What started as a quick 10-hat pre-run at Daytona, wearing a standard hat with a stylized “M” logo, has now grown into a new brand to coincide with the DJ tracks he puts together on Soundcloud, after those 10 sold out quickly. There’s now more styles to the hat. Morad credits his girlfriend for her work ethic and dedication and helping this side of his career grow.

Morad joins Giancarlo Fisichella and Raul Boesel among other notable drivers who’ve added this component of work to their day jobs, and explained the inspiration.

“I started DJing when I was 19, as I got into it through a friend,” Morad explained. “It’s funny because I don’t like the party scene per se – or crowds – people stepping on foot or drinks!

“But DJing is such a thrill. There’s a lot of pressure to perform. If you don’t perform… the whole night revolves around you. But if you don’t do a good job, the night’s bad for people. I like the challenge of making a good show.”

For Morad on track though, making a good show has been one of the fun story lines to watch in the sports car world in 2017, and he’ll look to keep it rolling on home soil this weekend.

VIDEO: Celebrating Mexico’s motorsport culture and racing history

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Since returning to the Formula 1 calendar in 2015, the Mexican Grand Prix has already established itself as one of the sport’s most exciting and vibrant races, with hundreds of thousands of fans flocking to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.

In order to get a flavor of Mexico’s rich racing heritage, NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton took time out of his summer break to explore Mexico City and also take part in the famous Carrera Panamericana road race.

The Carrea Panamericana is Mexico’s equivalent of the Mille Miglia, initially acting as a border-to-border sportscar event before being cancelled in 1955.

The race was revived in the 1980s, and continues to this day, offering drivers a gruelling, week-long challenge against the clock at high speed on public highways through the mountains of central Mexico.

2017’s Formula 1 race is set to be a poignant one for Mexico following the devastating 7.1 magnitude earthquake that struck earlier this week, claiming the lives of over 200 people.

With the race set to go ahead as planned, it will be an important statement of unity from Mexico when it welcomes F1 at the end of October, the grand prix taking place on October 29 and acting as another chapter in the nation’s steeped motorsport history.

Mexico’s only F1 driver, Sergio Perez, has set up a fund through which donations can be made to help those affected by the earthquake with full details below.

Donations can also be made via PayPal by clicking here.

F1/IndyCar clashes frequent for 2018 as schedules shape up

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The latest meeting of the World Motor Sport Council may not have yielded much in the way of groundbreaking news, but the confirmation of Formula E and the World Endurance Championship’s 2018 schedules did help us get a grip on next year’s racing calendar.

Perhaps the most notable thing with next year’s schedules is the heavy reduction in clashes between the FIA’s three premier track championships – F1, Formula E and WEC – next year, making good on its plans for calendar harmonization moving forward.

WEC confirmed its ‘super season’ schedule earlier this month, stretching 13 months from May 2018 to June 2019, and added Silverstone last week, with the calendar gaining FIA approval in Paris.

Of the 2018 WEC rounds, there is just one clash with another FIA track championship: between the 6 Hours of Fuji and the F1 United States Grand Prix on the October 21 weekend.

While the more pressing worry for drivers is between WEC and Formula E after the July 16 debacle this year, no WEC and F1 clashes is good news for Fernando Alonso, who could well appear at Le Mans next year as part of his Triple Crown bid.

Formula E does have a number of F1 clashes, albeit not until the sixth event of its season, with the Rome race being held on the April 15 weekend where the Bahrain Grand Prix also sits (for now – China is due to swap dates).

Other Formula E and F1 clashes come on April 29 (Paris/Azerbaijan), June 10 (Zurich/Canada) and July 29 (Montreal/Hungary), although by shifting the New York City ePrix back one week to July 14-15, a gap has been found in the schedule.

For those operating across all three series (including yours truly), there is now a busy run between the start of the F1 season in Australia and the start of the summer break in Hungary with just three empty weekends.

As for IndyCar clashes? The condensed nature of the series’ schedule and the expansion of F1’s calendar to 21 races means they are inevitable. That said, as IndyCar is outside of the FIA’s realm of control, it was never really in the mix for its harmonization plans.

Yet again there is a clash between the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix, sadly something we have become accustomed to in recent years, but over half the IndyCar calendar faces an F1 clash next year. There may be further ones to come when a couple other race dates get announced.

Here’s a full run-down of the F1/IndyCar double dip weekends thus far:

April 7-8: Chinese GP, Phoenix Grand Prix
April 14-15: Bahrain GP, Grand Prix of Long Beach
May 12-13: Spanish GP, Indianapolis GP
May 26-27: Monaco GP, Indianapolis 500
June 9-10: Canadian GP, Texas 600
June 23-24: French GP, Road America GP
July 7-8: British GP, Iowa Corn 300
August 25-26: Belgian GP, Gateway 500
September 15-16: Singapore GP, Sonoma GP

Bahrain, China ‘on-track’ to swap F1 race dates for 2018

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Next year’s Formula 1 races in China and Bahrain are “on-track” to swap dates in order to maximize their local exposure, according to the sport’s commercial chief, Sean Bratches.

The provisional F1 schedule for 2018 lists the Chinese Grand Prix as the second round of the season, taking place on April 8, with the Bahrain Grand Prix taking place one week later on April 15.

However, plans are afoot to swap the races around due to the Qingming national holiday that is set to take place in China on the April 8 weekend, potentially having a negative impact on crowd numbers at the Shanghai International Circuit.

“We’re trying to take into account global events, local events, religious holidays and things to ensure we’re maximizing the opportunity for fans to attend the grands prix,” Bratches told Reuters.

“We’re talking to both of them to that end and if we can reach a mutually agreed upon solution, which appears to be on-track to happen, you’ll probably see that,” he said.

No updates were made to the F1 schedule for 2018 at the latest meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Paris this week, meaning no switch between Bahrain and China will be ratified until the start of December at the earliest.

NASCAR America: Scott Speed’s quest for Red Bull GRC three-peat

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Red Bull Global Rallycross points leader Scott Speed is going for his third consecutive championship next month (Saturday, October 14, 4:30 p.m. ET, NBC from Los Angeles) for the Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team.

Prior to that, he joined Thursday’s edition of NBCSN’s NASCAR America, checking in with his former Red Bull Racing teammate Brian Vickers, show host Carolyn Manno and analyst Steve Letarte.

Speed talked teammate dynamics – he and Tanner Foust have been the class of the Red Bull GRC field for several years – and what it takes to succeed in the diverse championship that features racing on both pavement and dirt.

“Tanner comes from more of a more rally background and I come from more of an open-wheel, road course background,” Speed explained. “You have to meet in the middle and often times that creates success. Our personalties are polar opposites and that’s a good thing.”

One other thing Speed addressed was Austin Cindric’s couple notable incidents in the last month or so. Going for his maiden NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win, Cindric hit Kaz Grala at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park to move for the lead and ultimately the win.

Cindric then made his GRC Supercars debut at the most recent weekend in Seattle and the two collided after a miscommunication in a preliminary race, prior to the Joker section of the course.

“He’s a young kid with not a lot of experience. He’s made a couple big mistakes. He came in like a wrecking ball,” Speed laughed.

“I was more mad because the car couldn’t restart at first. But it did, and we got going.”