After winning the Formula BMW USA Rookie of the Year title in 2006 and following it up with the overall championship the next year, Daniel Morad has a new challenge for 2008. The 17 year-old Canadian will make his debut in the Champ Car Atlantic Championship series this season, something that was not necessarily in his plans but is a welcome step on his career ladder all the same.
"We definitely stumbled upon running Atlantic," Morad told Motorsport.com. "The aim was to go and race in Europe, whether it was the F3 Euroseries, British F3 or even Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup. After I was released from the Red Bull Junior Team for 2008, it was very difficult because we were very unprepared in terms of finding other sponsors, so it was too difficult to raise money to race in Europe."
"After we found out that Eurointernational, which was the team that helped me to the 2007 Formula BMW USA championship, was entering the series, it only made sense. This is very much a positive step in my career because I can still choose to race in Europe after this year and it really leave my options open."
Morad made his mark in Formula BMW but was cruelly robbed of his chance to win the World Final last year -- and the prize of a test with the BMW Sauber F1 team -- due to a car failure in the opening laps of the feature race. But his experiences in the junior series have taught him well and he's eager to move on to something new, although he's well aware that this season will not be easy.
"Atlantic is for sure one of the most competitive single-seater racing series in North America at the moment, so it will really be difficult to consistently be at the very top of the podium," he said. "Also, all the circuits on the schedule this year will be new to me for the exception of Road America. This will also be a challenge. With the limited amount of track time on a race weekend of Formula BMW, it should be no problem adapting to new circuits."
He's happy to be continuing with the team that took him to the Formula BMW title. "I am very pleased to be with Eurointerantional for a second year. I was very impressed the way the structure of the team is set up and the level of commitment of everyone involved so it was a no-brainer to be back with them again to compete in the Champ Car Atlantic series."
Morad's first time in the cockpit of his new car came earlier this week when he tested at Sebring and his initial impressions were positive. "The first day of testing went very well," he commented. "After the first 20 laps ever driving the Atlantic car we were very quick, running near the top of the charts all day. We were 6th in the morning session and 4th in the afternoon session. I was really happy with the results but still feel that they can be a lot better with more experience."
"The car is very fast. The very first lap I drove the car I felt really comfortable, almost like I have driven it before. It is very similar to the Formula BMW in terms of driving style. Although the Atlantic has all around better performance than the Formula BMW, I felt that it was a perfect step up for me."
Morad is a realistic and unassuming kind of guy; he always seems rather surprised about his own successes. But he knows what's achievable and his sights are set high. "Coming into the test having never driven the car before, I didn't have very high expectations for myself," he said. "After driving the car and getting a feel for the other drivers, I have no doubt that this year we have the right package to win the championship."