Ford Planning Le Mans Comeback
Ford Motor Company is reportedly pondering a factory GT program that will see the Detroit-based manufacturer return to the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans race after a very long absence. The comeback is scheduled for 2016, SportsCar365 reports citing industry sources, when Ford is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its first overall win at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
Ford, who is currently providing EcoBoost engines to a prototype program with Riley Technologies in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, is said to be evaluating a factory GT project. If the program comes to fruition, the Blue Oval will join the iconic Le Mans event in the GTE category for production-based cars. Set to receive new regulations for 2016, the GTE class is currently disputed by companies such as Ferrari, Porsche, Chevrolet, and Aston Martin.
While this is great news for every motorsport enthusiasts, our advice is to take this report with a pinch of salt. For Ford to be able to join the famed race in 2016, a vehicle should already be in development, and not just a pending approval. Unless the said race car is a well-guarded secret, chances are slim for Ford to make a comeback to Le Mans as soon as 2016.
Click past the jump to read more about Ford at Le Mans.
Why It Matters
The same year also marks the last time when a U.S.-built car won the event, making Ford's possible return to Le Mans as exciting as it gets.
Ford’s last triumph at the 24 Hours of Le Mans dates all the way back to 1969. The same year also marks the last time when a U.S.-built car won the event, making Ford’s possible return to Le Mans as exciting as it gets. Sure, we’re a bit skeptical the American company will make a comeback in less than two years, but we’re confident the Blue Oval is up to something. There’s no smoke without fire and Ford’s vast experience with competitions such as IMSA and SCCA should make a comeback that much easier to achieve.
What’s more, the company’s new, race-spec 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost has already helped Chip Ganassi Racing win at Sebring and Long Beach this year and makes the perfect candidate for a GT race car. Of course, we’d rather have Detroit play with the big boys in the LMP1 division, but we’ll settle for any Ford-badged racer as long as it competes at Le Mans.
Ford at the 24 Hours of Le Mans
Although Ford’s campaign at Le Mans was rather short as a prototype manufacturer, the American company enjoyed great success in the 1960s. Ford’s venture into Le Mans racing began in 1963. After failing to acquire Ferrari, as Enzo refused to cease control of its racing division along with the brand, Henry Ford II directed the company’s competition arm to build a race car that could beat the Italians, who had one four Le Mans events between 1958 and 1962, in endurance racing.
Ford scored a 1-2-3 finish that year and became the first U.S. automaker to win the Le Mans.
Ford immediately tied a knot with British specialist Lola, hired ex-Aston Martin team manager John Wyer to overview the project, while Carroll Shelby joined in to continue manufacturing as the chassis arrived on U.S. soil. Thus the Ford GT40 was born, a mid-engined race car that would make its Le Mans debut as early as 1964. Following two unsuccessful campaigns in 1964 and 1965, the GT40 went on to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966 under the Shelby-American flag. Ford scored a 1-2-3 finish that year and became the first U.S. automaker to win the Le Mans. The GT40, this time in Mark IV guise, returned to win the race in 1967 as well, right before Ford decided to withdraw from sports car racing as FIA changed the rules of the game.
Left without factory support, John Wyer Automotive went on to develop an updated version of the GT40, the Mark I, which scored two more wins at Le Mans in 1968 and 1969. The GT40 became obsolete in 1970 when the updated Porsche 917 began dominating the sport and retired as a four-time overall winner. To this day, Ford is one of only six manufacturers to win at least four Le Mans races in a row and ranks sixth alongside Alfa Romeo by number of overall wins. That’s mighty impressive for a race car with such a short life.