SEBRING, Fla. – It’s been a whirlwind month for the Alegra Motorsports team.
Nearly four weeks ago, the No. 28 Porsche 911 GT3 R driven by Michael Christensen, Jesse Lazare, Daniel Morad and the father-son duo of Carlos and Michael de Quesada pulled out a stunning victory at the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
The win was a surprise to many as the GT Daytona class was stacked with experienced racers and new manufacturers, but for Alegra Motorsports, it wasn’t quite so unexpected.
Christensen enters his third year as a Porsche factory driver. Lazare dominated and won the 2016 IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama Platinum Cup championship. Morad was the 2016 Porsche North American Cup and Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama champion. Carlos de Quesada won the 2007 Rolex 24 At Daytona in GT, and his son, Michael, took the 2016 driver title in the Porsche GT3 Gold Cup Championship.
Stellar resume for a team who slipped under the radar.
“You can say it’s a Cinderella story,” Carlos de Quesada said. “I just don’t want people thinking that it’s going to continue to be a Cinderella story. This could be the story of a great team coming out with great crew members and great drivers and running the best manufacturer out there in Porsche and being competitive.”
While the excitement from their Rolex win may never fade, the team is also ready to get back to work. The No. 28 returned to the track this week for the two-day IMSA test at Sebring International Raceway. The elder de Quesada logged laps with Morad and 2015 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Street Tuner champion Spencer Pumpelly, who played a pivotal coaching role for the team at Daytona.
“Yes, we won Daytona but now we’re focused on Sebring,” de Quesada said. “Just like we went into Daytona, we’re coming here to be competitive. We’re not out there to run circles. We’re not out there to be a back runner. Our goal, like any race we go into, is to win the race. We’re not going to let up on that.”
Adding Pumpelly has also been a huge benefit for the team. The veteran IMSA driver reconnected with former colleague Larry Hahn, now Alegra engineer, at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 looking for a ride. Hahn reintroduced Pumpelly and de Quesada, who raced against each other in ALMS and Grand-Am in the early 2000s. Even though Alegra already had finalized its driver lineup for the Rolex, the team was eager to use Pumpelly as a strategist.
“They gave me pretty free rein to do what I wanted to strategy-wise, more so than I thought they would,” Pumpelly said with a laugh. “I finally got to run the race the way I thought it should be run, my philosophy on how to run the 24. We had a really good car that Larry put together, our drivers were fantastic, all the pit work by every guy that went over the wall was amazing. It was cool to see my theory on how it should be run put us in position to win and watch these guys go take it.”
Pumpelly already fit in quickly to Alegra’s way of doing things- he clocked the quickest lap in GTD during Thursday’s afternoon test session with a time of 2:03.172. It also helps that he’s driving a car he’s very familiar with.
“The majority of my career has been in 911s, so to get back in the car and get back to what I feel is most comfortable for me is good,” Pumpelly said. “”Anytime you run with anyone as good as these guys, you want to perform to their level and this is the first time that I’ve really gotten to push the GT3 hard. There’s pressure, for sure, but these guys are doing everything they can to make it as easy as possible.”
Alegra Motorsports is expected to announce its driver lineup for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida soon, with the race being held on March 18.