Ford is celebrating a triumphant return to Le Mans 24 Hours 50 years after the GT40s historic 1-2-3- win in 1966.
While the automaker couldn’t repeat its historic podium sweep, it came close.
Ford raced four Ford GTs in its long-awaited return to the world’s most famous race. The next-generation GT took two of the top three podium spots in front of more than 250,000 spectators. Ferrari took the second spot with its all-new 488.
It really came down to a Ford/Ferrari dual, with Aston Martin’s and Chevrolet’s GTE Pro cars well off the pace in the 2016 race.
The Ford GT No. 68 crossed the finish line as the overall winner in the endurance classic in a very close race with No. 82 Ferrari, which took second. The No. 68 Ford GT took the lead for the final time in the 20th hour of the race. The No. 69 Ford GT came in third.
“This is an historic moment for the Ford Motor Company,” says Bill Ford, executive chairman, 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.”
If you’re wondering what happened to the third and fourth GTs, the No. 66 GT missed the top three by one to come in fourth, due to an electrical problem. The No. 67 experienced problems from the get-go and while repairs were made, delays put it way back in ninth place.
The race also wasn’t without controversy. Ford and Ferrari were both accused of sandbagging – that is to say they were accused of not showing their genuine “form”, or pace, during warm-up events. So for the first time in recent history, race organizers forced several cars to adjust weight and other specs (Balance of Performance modifications) before the event to even the playing field.
There were also several post-race protests between Ferrari and Ford which resulted in some time penalties, but Ford still came out in first place.