Team Presentation LM GTE Pro: Ford GT #66 #67 #68 and #69

Team Presentation LM GTE Pro: Ford GT #66 #67 #68 and #69

This year Ford makes its much-awaited Le Mans comeback, exactly 50 years after the first of its four straight wins at the 24-hour endurance marathon with the legendary GT40. The LM GTE Pro class entry for the biggest armada in this year's race - four Fords will line up on the grid - means overall victory won’t be the target this time, though.



Owner: Chip Ganassi

Executive VP Ford Global Product Development: Raj Nair

Director Global Ford Performance: Dave Pericak

Base: Dearborn (Michigan, USA)


2016 FIA WEC results:
6 Hours of Silverstone: 20th, Franchitti/Priaulx/Tincknell (GBR/GBR/GBR) #67 Ford GT (4th LM GTE Pro); 21st, Johnson/Mücke/Pla (USA/DEU/FRA), #66 Ford GT (5th LM GTE Pro)

6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps: 16th, Franchitti/Priaulx/Tincknell (GBR/GBR/GBR) #67 Ford GT (2nd LM GTE Pro); Abd. Johnson/Mücke/Pla (USA/DEU/FRA), #66 Ford GT.


2016 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship results:

24 Heures de Daytona: 30th, Hand/Müller/Bourdais (USA/DEU/FRA), #66 Ford GT (6th GTLM); 39th, Briscoe/Westbrook/Mücke (AUS/GBR/DEU), #67 Ford GT (9th GTLM)

12 Hours of Sebring: 15th, Briscoe/Westbrook/Dixon (AUS/GBR/NZL), #67 Ford GT (5th GTLM); 26th, Hand/Müller/Bourdais (USA/DEU/FRA), #66 Ford GT (8th GTLM)

Long Beach: 15th, Briscoe/Westbrook (AUS/GBR), #67 Ford GT (4th GTLM); 21th, Hand/Müller (USA/DEU), #66 Ford GT (8th GTLM)

Laguna Seca: 6th Briscoe/Westbrook (AUS/GBR), #67 Ford GT (1st GTLM); 12th, Hand/Müller (USA/DEU), #66 Ford GT (6th GTLM)


     Ford’s racing history goes back to 1901 … which is almost two years before Ford was officially founded! That first race was won by Henry Ford himself, even though he had never competed in a motorsports event before. In January 1901, after his first company, Detroit Automobile Company, went bankrupt, Ford was left penniless and had to move back in with his father, taking his wife and son with him. He hadn’t given up on the idea of starting another car company, but where would he find the money? Ford being Ford, he soon found a way, however: on 10 October 1901, the Detroit Driving Club organised a national race at Grosse Pointe, attended by Alexander Winton, the best driver around at that time, who also happened to be America’s leading car dealer. He had agreed to attend on one condition: that he could choose the trophy to be handed to the winner. The deal was sealed and he opted for a magnificent crystal punchbowl that would look great in his smart home – he was that sure of winning. In the meantime, Henry Ford had been busy working with a few mechanics to design and build a car with what little money he had left. He was going to enter the race, although he had no intentions of winning. The $1,000 prize money (equivalent to around €30,000 today) would certainly have helped him found a new business, but Ford was simply hoping to draw the attention of potential investors at the race. His car, cheekily named Sweepstakes, had a two-cylinder engine, 26 horsepower and a top speed of 72 miles per hour. Sweepstakes was very rudimentary and much less powerful than his rival’s car, but it was also much lighter. What is more, Ford was well aware that the main weakness of cars at that time was the starter so he asked his dentist to make him one out of the ceramic used for dental crowns! The day of the race came and Winton made a flying start, but Sweepstakes was much more agile around the bends, helping Ford close the gap. During the eighth lap Winton’s engine started to splutter, Ford managed to overtake and went on to win the race.

     For the next 36 years, he smiled every time he looked at the punchbowl. However, the first words he spoke after the race, suggesting he hadn’t really enjoyed himself, were "never again"! Sweepstakes bagged Ford the prize money and he accepted the offers made by certain spectators to invest in the Ford Motor Company, founded in 1903.

     In 1902, Henry Ford built the 999 but this time let Barney Oldfield drive – and they won again. In 1904, Ford returned to the racetrack himself with a modified 999, breaking the world speed record over one mile on a frozen lake. That record was broken again just one month later. Keen to promote the new Ford T, Ford entered it in the transcontinental race from New York to Seattle in 1909. The Ford T won in 22 days and 55 minutes, but was later disqualified for having changed its engine. In 1913, Henry Ford tried to register the Ford T for the 500 miles of Indianapolis, but the organisers asked him to add 1,000 pounds (around 450 kg) to the car. His blunt reply was "we build racing cars, not trucks’. Shortly after, Ford pulled out of motorsport and it was only later in the 1950s and 1960s that we would see the Blue Oval officially enter races again.

     At the end of the 1950s, Henry Ford II, who was running the group by then, wanted to make the Ford name known worldwide and to attract younger buyers. He looked longingly towards motorsport with the Indy 500, Formula One and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. His failure to buy out Ferrari gave him an excuse to come and challenge the Italian manufacturer at its event of choice: the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In spring 1963, Henry Ford made Enzo Ferrari an offer to buy his company but Ferrari set one condition: that he would remain in charge of his company’s motorsports. This was obviously unacceptable for Ford so Ferrari refused the American’s generous offer, angering Ford who vowed that he would beat Ferrari on the racetrack as soon as he could.

To save time, Roy Lunn, head of Ford Advanced Vehicle Center, suggested using the Lola Mk6 GT chassis that ran in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1963 (abandoned) fitted with a Ford engine. An agreement was signed with Lola, which built a new factory in Slough in the UK. Most of the parts used to build the Ford GT40 (40 being the car’s height in inches (101.6 cm)) were also manufactured on British soil. In 1964, the Ford team, headed by John Wyer, entered three GT40s in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, driven by some of the biggest names in motor racing such as Phil Hill, who achieved the fastest race lap, Bruce McLaren, Richard Ginther, Master Gregory, Richard Attwood and Jo Schlesser. Although the #10 Ford led for part of the race, in the end it was an overwhelming failure for the American firm: none of its cars made it to the finish line and worse – rival Ferrari scored a one-two-three finish!


For 1965, John Wyer handed over to Caroll Shelby, who entered the Ford GT40 that had won the 2,000 km of Daytona. Alas, in Le Mans, none of the six Ford GT40 saw the chequered flag while Ferrari repeated the previous year’s feat with three of its cars bagging the first three places. Ford’s pride was hit hard, especially since Henry Ford II had spent lavish amounts.

There was a whole new strategy for 1966. The Ford GT40 (Lloyd/Ruby) triumphed again in Daytona, which was now a 24-hour race, and went on to win the 12 Hours of Sebring with the same squad. At Le Mans, however, the American team ran into misfortune in the pre-qualifying tests when Walt Hansgen skidded of the wet track. Henry Ford II himself lowered the flag to start the race, with some 13 Ford GT40s (5 MkI and8 MkII) on the grid. There were 55 cars at the start but only 15 finished the race – including three Ford GT40 MkIIs in the first three places! Henry Ford II had finally defeated Ferrari, but the victory for Bruce McLaren/Chris Amon had a bitter taste for Ken Miles and Denny Hulme. To capture this long-awaited moment in a memorable photograph, Ken Miles, who was leading, was given orders to wait for Bruce McLaren’s sister car so both cars could cross the line together. Yet according to the regulations, there had to be a winner. Car #2 was declared the victor, because it had started out from fourth on the grid and had covered a longer distance than #1, which had started second. Ken Miles never got a chance to take revenge: he was killed in a test session in August 1966.

The 1966 1–2-3, together with the World Sports Car Championship title, was just the beginning: the 1967 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans has been dubbed “the race of the century”, as Ford and Ferrari, both at their peak, fought a spectacular battle. The American marque had to ship over spare windscreens on a plane from Detroit, as the screens it had kept cracking but this didn’t stop the team from powering to victory. This time, however, Ford had to make do with just one spot on the podium with the GT40 MkIV, after A.J. Foyt/Dan Gurney had overtaken the Ferrari driven by Ludovico Scarfiotti/Mike Parkes. Ford also clinched its second World Championship title at the end of the year.

After the records broken in 1967, the international sporting commission limited prototypes to a 5-litre engine and a minimum of 50 cars had to be built. As a result, neither Ford nor Ferrari entered a works team at Le Mans in 1968. Instead, John Wyer Automotive Engineering entered a Ford GT40 MkI driven by Lucien Bianchi, not put off by his brother Mauro’s serious accident at Tertre Rouge, and Pedro Rodriguez. That car won the race and Ford also took its third World Sports Car Championship title.

Before the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1969, the international sporting commission made more changes and the number of production cars was lowered to 25. The race coincided with presidential elections in France so the start time was brought forward to 2 p.m. This was also the year that Jacky Ickx decided to protest against the Le Mans-style start, which he believed to be dangerous. He walked to his car, instead of running, so set off at the back of the field. The battle between the Porsche 917 and the Ford GT40s was a fierce one but in the end it was the Ford driven by… Jacky Ickx and Jackie Oliver that triumphed. This also brought Ford’s golden era at the 24 Hours of Le Mans to a close.

Fast forward to the new millennium and 2005 when Ford brought out a Ford GT1. Three of these cars were raced – without success – at Le Mans in 2010 by a privateer team, Matech. Robertson Racing’s Ford GT-R MkVII, raced in 2011, was another privateer effort and led to a third place in the LM GTE Am class.

     In 2015, Ford finally announced its official return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans for 2016. It will not be racing for overall victory this time, as the Ford GT will be competing in the LM GTE Pro class. To mark the 50th anniversary of its first Le Mans win, Ford is fielding four cars – the two GTs that compete in LM GTE Pro in the FIA World Endurance Championship and the two GTs run in GTLM in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the United States. The Ford GT made its race debut in the USA at the 24 Hours of Daytona at the end of January. Unfortunately, both cars were plagued with mechanical issues and had to undergo repair in the first quarter of the race. The performances at Sebring and Long Beach will not go down in the history books either. The team’s luck changed, however, at Laguna Sec, where they took their first win, after duo Ryan Briscoe/Richard Westbrook made the most of the security car to save on fuel so they could make it to the finish with one less pit stop than their rivals.

Things got off to a better start in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Both cars saw the flag at Silverstone, finishing fourth and fifth in LM GTE Pro. Franchitti/Priaulx/Tincknell (#67) finished second on the podium at Spa-Francorchamps, while Stefan Mücke (#66) managed to avoid injury after crashing off the track at the top of the Raidillon at Eau Rouge. The latest results confirm that Ford is improving all the time, but will that be enough to make history and celebrate the 50th anniversary of its famous 1–2-3 with another victory?

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