Exactly 50 years after Ford’s victorious race taking one-two-three at Le Mans in 1966 with the iconic GT40, the marque has achieved one-three-four, almost clinching an identical podium finish half a century on. The #68 Ford Chip Ganassi Ford GT, driven by Sébastien Bourdais, Joey Hand and Dirk Müller, triumphed in France in the LM GTE Pro category, designed for production-based vehicles.
‘It’s an unbelievable feeling to be able to make this happen,’ said Bourdais, commenting on his tenth race and first win at Le Mans. ‘There was so much effort, so much emotion, and to be the one that wins the trophy to give the Ford family and everyone involved is very special. Everything aligned for us today – the history, the Ferrari/Ford battle, 50 years on and the Ford family being here. To come out on top of all that is an amazing feeling.’
Third place in a podium position was the #69 Ford GT, with Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon and Richard Westbrook behind the wheel. Fourth place went to the #66 Ford GT raced by Billy Johnson, Stefan Mücke and Olivier Pla, who suffered a small electrical issue, with the marque’s final entry #67 with Marino Franchitti, Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell coming in at ninth, following an early clutch fault.
Breaking up the full Ford podium finish was the #82 Ferrari 488 GTE, which battled with the race winner over the course of the 24 hour event. This rekindled a 50-year-old rivalry between Ford and Ferrari at Le Mans, but in both 1966 and 2016, Ford has been triumphant.
Bill Ford, Ford Motor Company’s Executive Chairman, said: ‘This is an historic moment for the Ford Motor Company. 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. The team that designed, built and raced the Ford GT has worked tirelessly to bring us to this result and I am proud of each and every one of them. The Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team demonstrated the spirit of Ford, that of innovation, determination and true teamwork. We cherish our history and heritage, but today we made history again and I couldn’t be more proud.’
The car involved in this victorious win, the Ford GT, was only unveiled at Le Mans last year. Even more surprisingly, it was just 395 days prior to this year’s race that the car turned a wheel for the first time, on 20th May 2015 at Calabogie Motorsports Park in Canada. It’s as a result of the hard work and determination from the Ford Chip Ganassi team that this revitalised brand has created a Le Mans winner in little over a year.
‘Building a new car and racing it at Le Mans is a monumental task,’ commented President and Chief Executive Officer at Ford Motor Company, Mark Fields. ‘We took it on and we conquered the biggest challenge in sports car racing: the Le Mans 24 Hours. It has been incredible to share this event with our dealers, owners, employees, sponsors and guests who are all bursting with pride at being part of the Ford family. Every manufacturer in the GTE Pro class fought with everything they had in the best competitive spirit, and we are thrilled to have played our part in this incredible race.’
This triumph for Ford Chip Ganassi makes the team owner the only owner in history to win the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500, Brickyard 400, Rolex 24 at Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring and Le Mans 24 Hours. The 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours also marks Chip Ganassi’s 175th victory as a team owner.
Can the #66 Ford GT build on its victory and add to its tally in the next round? The World Endurance Championship is in full flow and Ford is set to succeed. With this simply thrilling performance car competing in the FIA WEC and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2016, anything could happen. Tune in to the next race on 3rd July at Watkins Glen International.