WEC manufacturers - a rich history in endurance racing: Ford
For the fifth in our series on the endurance racing history of our manufacturer partners, we look at one of Ferrari's fiercest rivals in GTE - Ford.
Much of Ford’s history in sportscar racing can be summed up with four characters: GT40.
Built with the specific purpose of humiliating Ferrari after a failed attempt by Ford at buying out the famous Italian marque, the GT40 was an evolution of the Lola Mk6, and made its Le Mans 24 Hours debut in 1964 after first contesting the Nürburgring 1000km.
While initially it was not a success, with none of the GT40s making the finish in 1964 and ’65, that changed in 1966 when the Mk II variant scored the first of four successive victories for Ford, bringing a close to an era of Ferrari domination.
Ford did not go for a fifth win in 1970, and in the next decade its Le Mans appearances were restricted to the occasional GT-class Capri or Torino. A Group C project in the World Sportscar Championship was launched in 1982, only to be abandoned after one season.
Although Ford power was used by the Panoz and Saleen GT teams and in a variety of prototypes in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the next Ford entry wouldn’t appear until 2010 and the Matech-built GT1. However, this was not a factory-backed effort and the programme fell victim to the GT1 class being abolished.
Ford’s absence wasn’t to last for too long this time though, as the chance at repeating its 1966 triumph 50 years later lured the American brand back to sportscar racing in a full works capacity, including an assault on the FIA World Endurance Championship beginning in 2016.
The difference was that this time Ford would not aim for outright victory but rather class honours in GTE Pro, the category which had in effect replaced GT1.
With its cars bearing the numbers 66, 67, 68 and 69 – the four years the original GT40 won – the GT delivered at the first time of asking, with Sébastien Bourdais, Dirk Müller and Joey Hand coming out on top in a thrilling three-way fight.
Defending its title proved to be trickier, with the best Ford only managing third in class last year, but Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx added two more WEC class wins during the 2017 season to add to the pair they took in 2016, taking the title fight down to the final round.