Gulf 1967-1975 (1) - The Ford GT40 years

Gulf 1967-1975 (1) - The Ford GT40 years

Exactly 50 years ago, one of the most well-known stars in the history of the 24 Hours of Le Mans came on the scene: the Gulf Oil Company's sky blue and orange livery. Highly-reputable team manager John Wyer was at the helm for all three of its winning chapters with three legendary cars - the Ford GT40, the Porsche 917 and the Mirage chassis.

The Gulf legend at the 24 Hours of Le Mans was born in 1966 out of the Anglo-American meeting between John Wyer and Grady Davis.

Fifty-seven years old at the time, Wyer was already a seasoned motorsports competitor. He seized his moment of glory in 1959 as an Aston Martin team manager and scored what is to this day the British marque's only win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori at the wheel.

Davis was a top notch gentleman-driver and served as the Vice President of Gulf Oil Corporation, an oil company based in Texas named after one of its first oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico. After having purchased a Ford GT40, he commissioned John Wyer to conduct a financial feasibility study for entering two of the cars in the World Marques Championship. Thus was created the JW Automotive Engineering team (the initials of both John Wyer and his associate John Willment) which later became John Wyer Automotive Engineering (JWAE).

The outfit's first appearance in Le Mans took place in 1967, with a lighter version of the Ford GT40's low roof, called the Mirage M1. After a double retirement, the team was forced to give up the car as a result of the three-liter limitation for prototypes. John Wyer went back to the Ford GT40, made compliant for the Sport class. And the legend was off and running...

...with two back-to-back wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In 1968, the race was delayed to the end of September and was therefore the last round in the World Marques Championship. After clearly dominating, the Ford GT40 driven by Pedro Rodriguez and Lucien Bianchi won the race, also giving Ford in one stroke its third consecutive world title. Then, in 1969, the same chassis - driven by Jacky Ickx and Jackie Oliver - racked up yet another victory. Having started dead last after walking to his car in protest of the Le Mans start, in the last lap of the race Jacky Ickx snatched the win from Hans Herrmann's Porsche 908!

For 1970, John Wyer passed on the Ford GT40 and became a partner with Porsche and its 917. Other records awaited him, to be continued in the next installment of this series!

Photo: Nine years after his win as manager of the Aston Martin team, John Wyer gave Gulf the first of its three victories as the owner of his own outfit, thanks to Mexican driver Pedro Rodriguez (seated on the hood of the car holding a bottle of champagne) and Belgian driver Lucien Bianchi (at the wheel).

Major Partner

PREMIUM partners

OFFICIAL partners

All partners