Potential buyers will have to wait until later this year to get their hands on the $400,000 Ford GT. But for race fans, the wait is almost over, two track versions of the exotic Ford set to take to the field this weekend for the annual Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Carrying the numbers 66 and 67, they’ll be part of a four-car assault being planned by the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team as it heads back to the Florida speedway to defend its title.
If the two GTs deliver during their debut event it would mark Ford’s seventh overall win at Daytona – and it would come a half century after Ford’s upset, 1-2-3 win at Le Mans with the original GT40.
“It’s definitely been a challenge getting the No. 66 and No. 67 – which are completely new to our engineers and mechanics – ready for such a big race to start the new season,” said Ford Ganassi team manager Mike O’Gara. “We have had to push ourselves with our testing and off-season prep to make sure the Ford GT program is where it needs to be to make sure we are competitive right out of the gate.
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Along with the two Ford GTs, the Ganassi team will field two Ford EcoBoost Riley prototype cars during the 24-hour endurance race that marks the beginning of the 2016 motor sports season.
Veteran drivers Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray, who won overall in the No. 02 Target/Ford EcoBoost Riley last year, will be back to defend their titles. For 2016, Lance Stroll, Alex Wurz and Brendon Hartley join FIA World Endurance Championship Ford GT driver Andy Priaulx in the No. 01 Claritin/Target Ford EcoBoost Riley prototype.
In the GTLM class, WEC Ford GT driver Stefan Mücke joins full-time IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship drivers Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook in the No. 67 car. Sébastien Bourdais will be paired with Joey Hand and Dirk Müller in the No. 66 car.
There’s a good reason why Ford is looking forward to the Rolex 24. In 1966, it came to Daytona with the original GT40, beginning a sprint that ultimately saw it climbing the podium at Le Mans, an unexpected victory that topped such traditional European contenders as Ferrari and Porsche.
Ford not only managed a win in ’66, but took the top three spots overall, going back to claim victory again in 1967, ’68 and ’69.
A victory this year at Daytona would mark the seventh time the maker has had overall wins at the Rolex, following prior podium assaults in 1965 and 1966, 1997, 1999, 2012 and 2015.
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Ford officials insist their chances are good, noting that the new GT was designed, first and foremost, as a race car, and only then was a street version spun off.
Ford is keeping specific details, like horsepower, close to the vest, but it notes that the new GT is powered by an updated version of the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 that debuted in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship in 2014. The most powerful EcoBoost production engine ever, development was supported by Roush Yates.
As for the production Ford GT, it will make extensive use of ultra-light carbon fiber and aluminum, with a hefty emphasis on aerodynamics to boost the performance of an engine rated at somewhere around 720 horsepower.
Ford plans to build only a limited number, likely under 1,000, with a price tag of around $400,000.
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