As excitement continues to build for Ford’s competitive return to the FIA WEC, MotorMartin has been told that Ford Chip Ganassi Racing been busy assembling a talented team of racing drivers from across the globe. The team are now ready for their return to the Le Mans 24 Hours, 50 years on from taking outright victory at the world’s greatest endurance race.
Due to the unique nature of Endurance racing each of the four Ford GTs will have a team of three drivers to take on the demands of the Le Mans 24 Hours, which takes place on June 18-19.
“We are pleased to have a very strong driver line-up for our return to the Le Mans 24 Hours,” commented Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president and chief technical officer, Global Product Development to MotorMartin, before continuing, “We’ve assembled a talented and experienced team on all fronts and we are all focused on creating a new chapter in Ford’s history at Le Mans.”
The #66 Ford GT will be raced by a formidable line-up featuring German, Stefan Mücke, Frenchman, Olivier Pla and American, Billy Johnson, while Scot, Marino Franchitti, Guernsey-based, Andy Priaulx and Englishman, Harry Tincknell form a very strong squad in the #67 Ford GT.
Tincknell is already a Le Mans winner as he took the LMP2 victory in 2014 in what was his fourth ever sports car race. He will join the team for the first two WEC races at Silverstone and Spa before going to Le Mans.
“At 24, to be driving a Ford GT car at Le Mans exactly 50 years after the famous 1-2-3 finish for the team is incredibly special for me personally,” shared Tincknell with MotorMartin. “Ford has such an incredible history at Le Mans and I think with this car and team we can emulate some of that success. We’ll be resuming that fierce battle with Ferrari but it will be very competitive with all of the manufacturers in the class so we are in for a great fight. There is an incredible drive within the team at the moment and everyone is excited to be back. I’m very proud to be a part of it all.” It certainly sounds like the drivers, team and Ford themselves are giving this everything and MotorMartin can’t wait.
Johnson is one of the most successful drivers in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge. Currently racing the Ford Shelby GT350R-C Mustang, Johnson makes his Le Mans debut this year.
“Ford’s history at Le Mans is one of the greatest motorsport stories of all time and this return after 50 years is arguably as meaningful and ambitious,” said Johnson. “Having won many races behind the wheel of Fords and having been a part of the development of the Ford GT, it’s truly an honour to be competing in the Le Mans 24 Hours on Ford’s historic return to the race. Like the original, the new Ford GT was built to win Le Mans and it’s such a fantastic car to drive.”
And then there’s the #68 Ford GT line-up of American, Joey Hand and German, Dirk Müller which will be further strengthened by the addition of Frenchman, Sébastien Bourdais at Le Mans, with New Zealander, Scott Dixon joining Englishman, Richard Westbrook and Australian, Ryan Briscoe in the #69 car.
Ford Chip Ganassi Racing pointed out that Bourdais tested the Ford GT during its development phase and competed in the #66 IMSA Ford GT at the Rolex 24 with Hand and Müller, perhaps hoping that this development experience will give the team a small advantage.
“Le Mans is incredibly close to my heart,” shared Bourdais with MotorMartin. “I was born there so it is very special to go back as the local boy, as I have done 10 times now. People have not forgotten Ford’s history and heritage at Le Mans, even though it was a long time ago. The excitement around Ford’s return will make Le Mans even more special for us. We have new challenges and new rivalries and we hope the story comes full circle so that we can repeat history.”
Bourdais and Dixon were recently announced as the third and fourth drivers who will complete the line-up for the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring this week.
“For once I’m the rookie as this will be my first Le Mans,” said Dixon. “I’m excited to make my Le Mans debut in the Ford GT. I’ve been in the car a few times in testing so I know we have a great race car here. Like any driver it is a dream come true for me to race at Le Mans and I can’t wait to get started.The history of Ford at Le Mans is very well documented and I’m proud to be part of this very special programme.”
“Personally and as an organisation we are thrilled to be racing at Le Mans this year,” added Chip Ganassi to MotorMartin. “As a driver I raced there once back in 1987 and I have been looking to get back there ever since. To be going with Ford and the new GT makes it all the more special and the talent assembled in this driver line-up just adds to the anticipation.” He’s not wrong either.
This news is sure to increase the already high level of anticipation to beyond fever pitch amongst Ford’s many fans Worldwide. It just remains to wish Ford, the team and drivers, good luck in what is possibly one of the hardest races in the World to finish. Let alone win.
Where will you go?