The Ford GT Completes its Fairytale 2016 Le Mans Win
Back in 1966, Ford set the international sports car racing scene alight with a titanic win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans—running an incredible 1-2-3 finish with its iconic Ford GT40 race car, and in the process beating arch-rival Ferrari. Fast forward 50 years and the Blue Oval has repeated its famed racing win at Le Mans, this time taking first and third with the all-new Ford GT race car in the LM GTE Pro category, splitting the podium with a lone Ferrari 488 GTE in second. The race, which was admittedly fraught with controversy over “Balance of Performance” alterations made to the GTE Pro cars beforehand, saw the Porsche 919 Hybrid of Marc Lieb, Romain Dumas, and Neel Jani take the overall win in the LMP1 category, passing the ailing Toyota TS050 Hybrid race leader in the final three minutes of the 24 hour event—an unbelievable storyline in itself. RELATED: The Ford GT that Won Le Mans in '66 is Now Like New
But while top honors go to Porsche, much of the attention has been on the fairytale Ford program, campaigned by Chip Ganassi Racing. The No. 68 Ford GT of Sebastien Bourdais, Joey Hand, and Dirk Muller took top step of the podium and fought back and forth with the second place Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE of Giancarlo Fisichella, Matteo Malucelli, and Toni Vilander. Chip Ganassi’s No. 69 car finished third, followed by two more Ford GTs in fourth and ninth.
The Ford GT class win was sweet for GT drivers Joey Hand and Dirk Muller, who had previously never won the event, though it was especially sweet for Frenchman and Le Mans native Sebastien Bourdais, who has campaigned the 24 hour event ten times before finally achieving a win this year.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling to be able to make this happen,” Bourdais said. “There was so much effort, so much emotion, and to be the one that wins the trophy to give to the Ford family and everyone involved is very special. Everything aligned for us today. To come out on top of all that is an amazing feeling.”
Since the end of the race, both Chip Ganassi Racing and Risi Competizione have protested each other’s finishes, and both first and second place cars have received time penalties for infractions, however no changes to the finishing order have been awarded.
The larger row remains to be sandbagging allegations between the GTE Pro teams and Balance of Power modifications that seemed to put the Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, Aston Martin V8 Vantage, and Porsche 911 RSRs visibly off the pace.
The all-new Ford GTs will return to the USA, riding high off their monumental Le Mans win, and compete at the the next round of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Watkins Glen on July 3.
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Photo Credit: Ford