By Mark Robinson
Alegra Motorsports Returning in 2021, in Alliance with Mercedes-AMG
Alegra Motorsports, a two-time winner of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, is returning to IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition in an alliance with Mercedes-AMG.
The team will field a Mercedes entry in the GT Daytona (GTD) class at the season-opening race in January, with plans for a potential second car later in the season. Alegra, based in Tampa, Fla., has a motorsports history spanning two decades that includes GT class wins at the Rolex 24 in 2007 and 2017.
"All of us at Alegra Motorsports first took notice of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 when we raced them for the win throughout the 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona," said Carlos de Quesada, Alegra Motorsports team principal. "It was an impressive debut for the Mercedes-AMG GT3, and the entire Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing effort showed early on it is a well-supported and technically strong program. We have spent 2020, even before the COVID-19 shutdown, as an evaluation year and can’t wait to return to competition with Mercedes-AMG."
Alegra will announce its driver lineup at a later date. The 2021 WeatherTech Championship season begins with the Roar Before the Rolex 24 from Jan. 22-24 at Daytona International Speedway, followed by Rolex 24 At Daytona race week from Jan. 28-31. The iconic twice-around-the-clock race on the 3.56-mile road course begins on Saturday, Jan. 30.
"I am very glad a well-known and established team like Alegra Motorsports has joined the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing family with our IMSA program," said Stefan Wendl, head of Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing. "In the past 10 years, our customer racing program has grown in terms of several championship wins and single-race victories. So, we are happy to have a new team joining the program that is professional, has a lot experience in GT3 racing and knows how to win races and championships. We are very proud they are with Mercedes-AMG for the coming year, we wish them all the best of luck and offer our full support."
Meyer Shank Racing Names Pla, Allmendinger as Part of 2021 DPi Lineup
Meyer Shank Racing has announced a portion of its driver lineup for the new Acura Daytona Prototype international (DPi) program it is undertaking for the 2021 WeatherTech Championship season. Veteran sports car racer Olivier Pla will be a full-season driver of the team’s No. 60 Acura ARX-05 DPi, with versatile AJ Allmendinger continuing his long association with the team by driving in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Pla, who turns 39 this week, boasts a lengthy European and World Endurance Championship racing résumé. He’s also competed in 33 IMSA-sanctioned races dating to 2008, the most recent coming last Saturday when he was part of the No. 77 Mazda DPi driving contingent. He has three IMSA wins to his credit, including the Sahlen’s Six Hours at The Glen last year with Mazda and the 2016 Motul Petit Le Mans in his last outing in the Meyer Shank Racing Prototype, when he teamed with John Pew and Ozz Negri.
"I still remember the four races that I did with MSR back in 2016 like it was yesterday, especially our win at Petit – we had such good performance," Pla said. "Since that moment, I always wished to have the opportunity to drive for Mike (Shank) again and today is the day we can finally announce that. It will be a very exciting time for MSR and I’m ready for the challenge. Next year can’t come soon enough and I’m ready to get things started."
The Rolex 24 in January will mark the 15th straight year that Allmendinger will drive for the team in the 24-hour race on the Daytona International Speedway road course. Along with Negri, Pew and the late Justin Wilson, Allmendinger was the overall winner of the Rolex 24 for MSR in 2012. Allmendinger has spent most of the past 15 seasons driving in NASCAR, most recently capturing an Xfinity Series win Oct. 10 on the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL.
Meyer Shank Racing competed in IMSA Prototype categories from 2006-2017 before moving to the WeatherTech Championship’s GT Daytona (GTD) class with Acura NSX GT3 entries in 2018. Last month, the team was named as one of two Acura DPi factory teams for the 2021 season.
"I always feel so fortunate and lucky to have the opportunity to drive for my close friend Mike Shank and everyone at the Meyer Shank Racing team for my 15th attempt at the Rolex 24," said Allmendinger. "I can’t wait to get back to Prototype racing. The DPi machines are very quick and look so fun to drive. I am sure it will take me a few laps to get used to the speed and downforce, but I’ll be surrounded by a great team and I know that I will get up to speed fairly quick."