Evan J. Smith
Freelancer
May 2, 2016
Photos By: Ford Motor Company

The clock has been ticking on Ford Performance as the start of the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans grows nearer. It’s no secret Ford is going after a Le Mans win with its all-new Ford GT racer; in part to showcase the capabilities of the latest technology, especially the 3.5L V6 EcoBoost engine that powers the GT, but also to proudly celebrate the 50th Anniversary of its 1966 Le Mans victory over Ferrari.

Chip Ganassi, who fields the Ford GT race team, took a big step in the right direction winning at Laguna Seca in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship this past weekend with drivers Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook at the controls.

“We’ve been waiting for this win for a long time,” said Dave Pericak, global director, Ford Performance. “I think it’s great that it came as a fuel economy win. It’s great for Ford EcoBoost, because that’s what it’s all about, but this is really a boost for the team going into Le Mans. We’ve been working up to this point to showcase the car’s durability and I think this is what the team needed to go to Le Mans.” The No. 67 Ford GT cruised to victory on the back of only one pit stop, while the rest of the competitors took two or three.

The No. 67 Ford GT started in the second qualifying position on the front row, and shortly after the green flag dropped, the Ford drivers went into a quick, but conservative pace with fuel economy in mind.

“It was a fuel-saving race from the start,” said Briscoe, “because we wanted to do it on one stop, but when Richard got in, we were definitely out of the window. The numbers he was making were just unbelievable. I never thought we’d be able to do it and I think that actually helped look after the tires. The pace was just as good as anyone’s at the end. It’s a phenomenal result.” The team’s sister car, the No. 66 Ford GT, finished p6.

Amazingly, the win came less than 12 months from the first test for the new GT racer. “It hasn’t sunk in yet (that we’ve won),” Pericak said. “We won’t have much time to celebrate. Le Mans is coming fast. It’s a great win for our employees who have been watching us and supporting us and it’s a good way to keep up the momentum going into our return to Le Mans.”

It was a great weekend for Ford and Ford Performance, as Brad Kesolowski, driving Roger Penske’s Number 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion, also scored a NASCAR Superspeedway victory at Talladega.

“What a day for Ford!” said Raj Nair, executive vice president of Ford Global Product Development, and chief technical officer. “We have been making great progress with the Ford GT program and this weekend was big in terms of showing reliability, speed, but also amazing fuel economy. We couldn't be happier for all the Ford, Multimatic and Ganassi team members who have spent endless hours getting us to this point. It's been less than a year that the race car first turned a wheel in testing, so it's a great morale boost to everyone as we now get ready for Le Mans.”

Indianapolis-based half of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing now enters Le Mans with momentum from victory and MM&FF will keep you up to speed on all the Ford GT progress as we approach Le Mans.