Ford GT x Le Mans: Destined to win?

Ford GT x Le Mans: Destined to win?

As I growled down the M1 and pondered the 500 mile trip that lay ahead to Le Mans, I couldn’t help but catch the ‘occasional’ glance-come-stare from passers by – but then of course there would be, I was driving a Ford Mustang after all, a sight not overly common in the UK. But it did bring the question to my mind; what do people think when they hear the name Ford? Ford is by no means uncommon in the UK, but the perception of the brand is such that cars like the Mustang have been banished to the ranks of ‘unicorn’ whereas the Ford Focus is considered a functional masterpiece. Little was I aware, but my perception of the Ford brand was about to change.



Ford GT40 x Le Mans 24hrs 2016 Car town Parade



It was exactly 50 years ago that Ford finished with a legendary 1-2-3 placing at Le Mans in 1966 in the Ford GT40, and with their new edition Ford GT, 2016 marked Ford’s return to the 24hr endurance race. The lengthy and arduous nature of the race, means that victory can by no means be assured, but Ford must have had an underlying confidence in their success, after all they invited a number of the Ford GT owners from all over the world to witness Ford’s return to Le Mans. These owners were Ford through and through, multiple Ford car owners – some even boasted more than one Ford GT40. Their excitement was palpable; as far as they were concerned the Ford GT was a car that many believed would never be made again, and yet here they were.



Ford GT x Le Mans 24hrs 2016 Chip Ganassi Pit Lane Driver



After the qualifying it was clear that the new Ford GT’s were onto something; they would start the 2016 Le Mans placed 1st, 3rd & 4th. Speaking with the Ford Performance Head Engineers before the race, they inferred that they didn’t fully know what to expect when they came to Le Mans – and I genuinely believe them. Listening to Bill Ford – the latest in a line of Ford family owners – speak after lunch, you got a sense of a ‘whimsical’ purpose, almost as if theirs was a cause propelled along by destiny, and the lot had already been cast. Either way, Bill Ford was not one to fret. He had full confidence in his Ford Performance team and it was not misplaced. To this end the Ford Performance team was managed by none other than Chip Ganassi Racing.



Ford GT x Le Mans 24hrs 2016 Chip Ganassi Driver Helmets


First unveiled to the media at Le Mans last year, the Ford GT’s 2016 Le Mans comes 395 days after the car turned a wheel for the first time on May 20, 2015, at Calabogie Motorsports Park in Canada.


Ford GT x Le Mans 24hrs 2016 Chip Ganassi Racing sunset



Chip Ganassi Racing are renown for winning championships, and prior to the Le Mans 24hrs 2016 his teams had amassed over 170 victories, including four Indianapolis 500s, a Daytona 500, a Brickyard 400, six Rolex 24 At Daytonas and the 12 Hours of Sebring – all that was missing was the Le Mans 24 Hours. Bill Ford had found himself a racing team that not only had the expertise, but the motivation to win.



Ford GT x Le Mans 24hrs 2016 Car 67



And visually, the new Ford GT is quite something; only the arrival of the Bugatti Chiron earlier on had produced a similar awe inducing silence amongst the visually charmed onlookers. This was not the Ford I thought I knew.



Ford GT x Le Mans 24hrs 2016 Chip Ganassi Racing Night Rain

Ford GT x Le Mans 24hrs 2016 Chip Ganassi Night Rain

“The new Ford GT is a spectacular car and we feel honored to be the ones to race it and represent Ford”
~ Chip Ganassi

Ford GT x Le Mans 24hrs 2016 Chip Ganassi Racing Night Shift

Ford GT x Le Mans 24hrs 2016 Chip Ganassi Racing Pit Lane



As the grueling 24hr endurance race was entering it’s 23rd hour, an American Journalist – Dorine Fournier-Smith – suggested we leave and head nearer to the Le Mans track itself. As far as choices go, this was a decision well made; one golf buggy ride through the melee of Le Mans, and our destination was to be the Ford Performance VIP media box – directly above the pit lane. As we arrived the race result was all but confirmed; the No.68 Ford GT would finish in first place, and we had the perfect vantage point from which to witness it. Caught up in the euphoria of the historic moment we made our way trackside to the pit lanes to submerge ourselves in the celebrations that ensued. The pure weight of the 24hrs of emotion and 50 years of history were unleashed on the podium:

“We dared to dream that we could return to Le Mans, 50 years after the incredible 1966 win, and take on the toughest competition in the world. The pride we all felt when the Ford GT crossed the line at Le Mans is indescribable.”

~ Bill Ford







The drivers of the soon to be famous winning No. 68 Ford Performance GT were Joey Hand (US), Dirk Müller (GER), Sébastien Bourdais (FRA),  and to make it all the sweeter, their victory came against their age old rivals Ferrari, bringing back the memories of Henry Ford II’s great back-to-back triumphs in ’66,’67,’68 & ’69.  The other three Ford GT’s in the race finished 3rd, 4th and 9th, finishing what was (yet another) historic moment for the Ford Motor Company.


Ford GT x Le Mans 24hrs 2016 Chip Ganassi Pit Lane

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