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Ford to Run Four GTs at LeMans

Half-century later, aiming to repeat historic victory.

by on Feb.05, 2016

Ford's two GTs were strong -- when running -- but had mechanical problems at Daytona.

Despite a disappointing debut at Daytona, Ford still has big hopes for its new GT race car – buoyed by word that organizers have approved a four-car entry for the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans.

But the four Ford GTs will have a lot to live up to. They’ll take the field exactly 50 years after Ford’s 1-2-3 podium finish at the 1966 Le Mans classic. Ford got off to a weak start in this year’s endurance series, its Daytona entries suffering from a series of mechanical problems.

The Last Word!

“It was great to see all four Ford GTs up there on the Le Mans entry list today,” said Dave Pericak, director of Ford Performance, during a press conference in Paris. “Newcomers are by no means guaranteed an entry, whatever their history or ambitions, so we thank the (organizers) for giving Ford the opportunity for a four-car assault in June.”

In France, Ford will retain the numbers 66 and 67 its two cars had for the Rolex 24 at Daytona. It will also campaign with cars number 68 and 69.

(Victory, defeat – and plenty of surprises in Daytona. Click Here for coverage.)

Its racing cars share the same basics as the Ford GT supercar that will go into retail sale later this year. The two-seater relies on a largely carbon fiber body and chassis and is powered by a version of the 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine that will be used in the $400,000 street car. Ford has not released performance details about either version of the GT, though he street model is expected to make in excess of 600 horsepower.

Ford - Ganassi crew members struggle to resolve a transmission problem at Daytona.

Though Ford will field four cars for Le Mans, they will be run by two separate teams. The #66 and #67 cars will be part of the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team and run in the FIA World Endurance Championship series. The other two will run in the IMSA WeatherTechSportsCar Championship.

To add a little confusion, the cars that ran at Daytona will actually become number 68 and 69. The Ganassi entries will be new cars.

Ford isn’t saying whether it will carry over the same driving team from the Rolex 24 when it heads to Daytona. They are, however, expected to continue manning the Ganassi entries in the months before the June Le Mans race. Among the other endurance races Ford will be heading for, it hopes to redeem itself with a strong showing, if not a win, at the 12 Hours of Sebring.

(Are you qualified to buy a Ford GT? It will take more than cash. Click Here for the story.)

Ford had high hopes heading to Florida last weekend. It wasn’t to be, however, a series of problems – primarily with brakes and balky transmissions – left the maker lagging near the back of the pack. But both cars did manage to run until the end.

“The earlier some of these problems happen, the better off we are,” Ford global product chief Raj Nair told TheDetroitBureau.com, as it provides more time to address them before the trip to France. “We’re doing everything we can to focus on winning Le Mans.”

As it did 50 years ago, Ford will face some classic competitors in France, notably including Ferrari and Porsche, though it also will have to cope with strong entries from Aston Martin, Audi and Corvette.

To confuse things, the #s 66 and 67 cars from Daytona become #s 68 and 69 at Le Mans.

In 1966, the Detroit maker staged an unexpected series of wins in the world endurance series before heading to Le Mans. There it not only won the overall championship but managed to take second and third, as well.

Whether Ford can repeat this year is far from certain, though it would clearly be happy to have just one of its new GTs take the checkered flag.

(Ford going off-road racing with new Raptor. Click Here for more.)

In all, organizers approved a field of 66 cars for the 2016 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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One Response to “Ford to Run Four GTs at LeMans”

  1. GT101 says:

    I’d bet against Ford pulling off another upset as they managed 50 years ago at Le Mans.