After a decades-long absence, Ford Motor Co. will return to endurance racing next year, launching a track version of the new GT supercar on a campaign to be capped with a race for the checkered flag at Le Mans.
The effort will begin next January, when Ford and Chip Ganassi Racing launch the new GT at the 24 Hours of Daytona. The program not-so-coincidentally is meant to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first win by Ford’s original GT40 Mk. II at Le Mans.
“We’re back,” proclaimed Ford Motor Co. Chairman Bill Ford, during a news conference preceding the start of the 2015 Le Mans endurance race. “We’re back with a car. We’re back with a partner.”
The car will be a modified version of the Ford GT the automaker dropped like a bombshell during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit last January. How much the race version of the GT will be modified remains to be seen. The GT was the unexpected hit of the Detroit show, and both the street car and race version “showcase” the technology Ford is working on, CEO Mark Fields said during today’s Le Mans news conference.
(Ford launching new Sync 3 system this summer. Click Here for the story.)
While final details are still under development, the Ford GT will feature a full carbon fiber body, though it is unclear precisely what mix of materials will be used for the underlying platform. The vehicle will be powered by a tuned version of Ford’s 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6. It is expected to make “600-plus” horsepower for the street, and likely a lot more for the track.
“From the time we began developing the GT we wanted to make sure we were designing a car that would bring us back to GT racing,” said Raj Nair, Ford’s global product development director.
As for the team, Ford is turning to Chip Ganassi Racing. They’re already partnered in prototype racing, but the Le Mans effort will take things a giant leap further. Together, they will compete in the LM GTE Pro series, the most challenging class on the endurance circuit. According to Ford, the GT “will run the full 2016 schedules of the FIA World Endurance Championship and TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, making its competition debut in January 2016 in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Florida.”
The effort is a particularly important one for Ganassi, the motorsports veteran explained. Its list of victories is a broad and impressive one, ranging from Indianapolis to Daytona, “but never Le Mans, and I can tell you we want to win here.”
The team will field four cars at the grueling French endurance race.
Getting back to Le Mans next year will have its sentimental value for Ford Motor Co., but the 2016 race will also put some extra pressure on the automaker. It will mark 50 years from the date when then-Chairman Henry Ford II got to tweak the nose of arch-rival Enzo Ferrari by not just winning at Le Mans, but having the GT40 Mk II land 1-2-3 on the podium.
The race version of the GT will be produced in Canada – along with the $400,000 street model – by Multimatic Motorsports. Other partners will include Rousch Yates Engines which will tune the 3.5-liter EcoBoost powertrain, Castrol, Brembo, Michelin, Forza Motorsports, Sparco and CGRFS.
(Click Here to check out the debut of the Ford GT.)