Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing teams combined for a string of success across two racing series in IMSA’s 2021 finale this past weekend at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. The competitive showing included the best finish of the season for the No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 team in Saturday’s featured Motul Petit Le Mans, the first Mercedes-AMG GT4 pole of the season and a combined 59 race laps led over 12 hours of competition in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season-ending races.
Alegra Motorsports and No. 28 Mercedes-AMG GT3 of co-driver Michael de Quesada, Daniel Morad and Daniel Juncadella stepped up for the team’s best race of the season with a fourth-place finish in Saturday’s 10-hour Motul Petit Le Mans.
Despite losing valuable track time for repairs after an incident early in the event, Alegra and its trio of drivers were competitive from the drop of the green flag in Saturday’s endurance race.
Starting driver Morad rolled off ninth in the GT Daytona (GTD) class field but quickly moved into the top five in the race’s opening hour. From there, Alegra and its trio of drivers rarely ran out of the top five for the remainder of the race, frequently battling in the top three.
Morad led the No. 28 team’s first laps during his second driving shift Saturday afternoon when he paced the GTD field for 20 laps. Juncadella, in his Road Atlanta debut, later led four laps in the No. 28.
Alegra’s No. 28 was one of three Mercedes-AMG GT3 entries in the Petit Le Mans finale but ended up carrying the Mercedes-AMG Motorsports flag solo after a bizarre multi-car accident in the race’s fourth hour.
Both the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, of team drivers Russell Ward, Philip Ellis and Maro Engel, and the No. 32 Gilbert Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG, co-driven by Guy Cosmo, Mike Skeen and Stevan McAleer, were eliminated in a seven-car pileup as the field accelerated up to speed on a race restart. Ward, who started fifth and was running fourth at the time of the incident, and debuting Mercedes-AMG GT3 driver McAleer were both uninjured in the incident.
Morad returned to the wheel of the Alegra No. 28 for the final driving shift of the race Saturday night. He was closing on the third-place finisher when the checkered flag flew, crossing the finish line fourth and less than five seconds behind the final podium finisher.
The fourth-place finish ended Alegra’s challenging season on a high note and topped a pair of fifth place showings in the mid-season summer stretch of back-to-back races at Watkins Glen International in late June and early July.
In Friday’s two-hour Michelin Pilot Challenge finale, Kenny Murillo teamed with Eric Foss as a substitute driver for Jeff Mosing for the second straight race.
The son of team owner and former champion driver Ken Murillo, the younger Murillo stepped in the No. 56 for the year’s final two races after Mosing broke his foot in a non-racing incident in September.
Making the most of the opportunity, Murillo won the pole in Michelin Pilot Challenging qualifying, his first in IMSA competition and the first top qualifying effort of the season for the Mercedes-AMG GT4.
Leading the field to the start, Murillo led the first 23 race laps and Foss later put the No. 56 Mercedes-AMG GT4 at the front of the field for 12 laps. The combined 35 laps led were a race-high for the Murillo Racing drivers.
Murillo and Foss were the only teammates to each lead the two-hour Pilot Challenge finale, but the No. 56 was knocked out of the lead with less than 30 minutes to go.
Foss was leading the race when the same competitor that hit the No. 56 in last year’s race at Road Atlanta again made contact again in the same set of corners. Foss was able to drive the damaged car back to the pits, but lengthy repairs dropped the No. 56 to a 17th place finish at the checkered flag.
While the No. 56 team was disappointed for the second-consecutive year at Road Atlanta, two other Mercedes-AMG GT4 teams rallied for top-10 finishes.
Co-drivers Mark Kwamme and Trenton Estep finished seventh in their Road Atlanta debut in the No. 18 CB Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4. The top-10 showing in just the fourth race for the CB teammates in in Michelin Pilot Grand Sport (GS) class competition was a strong follow up to the team’s first top-five finish one race ago at VIRginia International Raceway (VIR).
Foss and Murillo ran all season alongside the sister, No. 65 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 of Brent Mosing and Tim Probert, who secured their third top-10 finish of the year in the Road Atlanta finale.
Daniel Morad, Driver – No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “Coming into the race, we had no expectations because we had no track time. I had three laps of practice before qualifying, so to be only six tenths off of pole in qualifying was promising for us and gave us a direction to work on the car. It came down to literally the warm-up session before the race, where we were still fine tuning the car and making some changes to get it dialed in. We had a few changes in the race, but right from the beginning we set the tone. We jumped from P9 up to P5, saved some fuel, got up to P3 and from there hovered around the top three, top five all day. The boys did an awesome job on the pit stops. Every single stop was perfect, and it allowed us to lead the race at some points.”
Michael de Quesada, Driver – No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Mercedes- AMG GT3: “It’s hard not to think about what could have been this season, but I have to say Saturday was an absolute win for us. Going into the morning warm-up, we were nowhere, and somehow the guys pulled a rabbit out of a hat. I got in the car for the first stint, and we were just on it. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, it was hard to compete with so little track time, but we absolutely did our best. I have to thank Alegra Motorsports, Mercedes-AMG and our sponsors. It was a real team effort to get us here to this point in the season and I’m happy to end up on a good note.”
Daniel Juncadella, Driver – No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It was great. We missed a lot of practice due to a small incident, so race day was my first experience on track, and I really loved it. It was great to experience it in such a hectic and chaotic race, but we escaped all of the dangers, and in the end, we managed to finish fourth. It was bittersweet, of course, we were so close to a podium, but fourth isn’t too bad, and I’m happy with my first experience here.”