The GM Renaissance Center serves as a backdrop to the Detroit Street Course, while the Canadian flag is another acknowledgment for nearby Windsor, Ontario.
It was the final backdrop to beat in Saturday’s Chevrolet Detroit Sports Car Classic, as Canadian Daniel Morad won in the shadow of his home country in the fourth round of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season.
Morad and Bryce Ward shared the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT GT4, using a bit of strategy, Morad’s relentless attack on a restart and final overtaking to secure victory in the Grand Sport (GS) class, alone, 100 minute race. It is the first victory for both drivers in the Michelin Pilot Challenge competition.
Ward started 11th and pitted shortly after 33 minutes, three minutes after the 30-minute minimum driving time opened. Swapping Morad in, the Winward Racing team took Michelin rear tires and resumed the course shortly behind the No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT4 and No. 28 RS1 Porsche Cayman 718 GT4 RS CS, which were the dominant cars in the opening stanza of the race.
The No. 28 car, started by Eric Filgueiras, only ran out of fuel and traded the car to Stevan McAleer. Meanwhile, the No. 95 car, started on pole by Cameron Lawrence, adjusted strategy and passed to Robert Megennis after leading the opening 28 laps.
It was there that the skin color – and the images – of the race changed.
Megennis attempted to lap Rory van der Steur in the No. 19 van der Steur Aston Martin Vantage GT4 en route to the first overtaking opportunity on the bumpy, 1.645-mile, nine-turn new downtown street course.
It all went wrong when Megennis drove in Van der Steur, with the momentum his BMW carried up and over the Aston Martin in a spectacular incident. Megennis’ car hit the top of the tire barriers before entering the pit lane, while van der Steur’s car was hit significantly on the driver’s side and roof of the car. Both drivers returned to the pit lane.
The resulting full-track caution shook up the order as a handful of cars, including the No. 72 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT GT4 of Kenny Murillo and Christian Szymczak, which had not yet pitted and subsequently lost track position when it stopped . .
The race resumed with McAleer cycling to the front ahead of Marc Miller in the debuting No. 78 Thaze Competition by MC Squared Mercedes-AMG GT GT4 and Morad third in the No. 57 Winward Mercedes.
Morad took off behind the leaders, as McAleer had a gap of a few laps between him and Miller. After moving past two lapped cars on the first restart lap (40), Morad had narrowed the gap by lap 43 to just a second behind McAleer.
Morad made the winning move on lap 46, taking McAleer into Turn 1 and going past him around the inside heading into Turn 2.
More Michelin Pilot Challenge!
Lawrence takes stunning MPC pole on the streets of Detroit
Hand to drive Mustang GT4 during the Detroit Pilot Challenge race
Murillo, Szymczak break through for first win in Pilot Challenge
“I knew the best opportunity would be early on, when the track was unfamiliar with oil and coolants,” Morad said.
“I had a good idea of where the grip was and went full attack and didn’t hesitate. The moment you hesitate on a street circuit, you’re in trouble, so I went for it.”
As Morad began to extend his lead up front, McAleer mounted a defensive driving clinic behind him to keep a bevy of cars in his rearview mirror, in the form of Miller, Jeff Westphal (No. 39 CarBahn by Peregrine Racing Porsche Cayman 718 GT4 RS Clubsport), Elliott Skeer (No. 47 NOLASPORT Porsche Cayman 718 GT4) and the recovering Szymczak.
Despite multiple attempts, Miller was never able to get past McAleer. The two were former teammates with different programs and know each other’s racing styles well, so there was a healthy level of respect.
McAleer and Filgueiras finished second with Miller and Michael Di Meo making a dream debut for the Thaze Competition in Birmingham, Michigan, finishing on the podium in both the team’s and Miller’s home races.
Westphal and Sean McAlister finished fourth ahead of Jeff Mosing and Eric Foss in the No. 56 Murillo Racing Mercedes. Mosing and Foss capped off an eventful weekend in which Mosing was forced to reverse back straight after a spin on Friday. For Foss, the chance to race in Detroit was special, as he went to the Formula 1 race here with his father in the 1980s. Points leaders Murillo and Szymczak finished seventh, behind Skeer and Adam Adelson in sixth.
Victory was sweet for Morad and Ward, especially for Ward whose Winward team has been a loyal Michelin Pilot Challenge for several years.
“It’s great,” Morad said. “Riding with Bryce is such a good opportunity for me this year. He has been the best team owner and teammate. There is no pressure except what I put on myself. And I want to win. Winning is fun!”
Ward added: “It’s been a great day and I can’t say enough for the team. The pit stop was perfect. The call from engineering was perfect. It was important to be clean and hand it over to Daniel!
The Michelin Pilot Challenge will resume with both the GS and Touring Car (TCR) classes returning to action on Saturday, June 24 at Watkins Glen International.
Story originally appeared on Racer