Ford’s Le Mans Effort Began With EcoBoost Daytona Prototype Engine
Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A year ago at Le Mans, Ford confirmed ambitious racing plans for its new Ford GT program, including a two-car IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship team and a four-car effort at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2016 to mark the 50-year anniversary of the Ford GT40’s overall victory and podium sweep at Le Mans in 1966.

But Ford’s road to return actually started at the inaugural WeatherTech Championship event in 2014, when Chip Ganassi Racing entered a pair of Ford EcoBoost-powered Daytona Prototypes in the 2014 Rolex 24 At Daytona.

The Ford EcoBoost DP won its second race – the 2014 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida – and won five races in two seasons competing in the WeatherTech Championship Prototype class, including the 2015 Rolex 24.

When both the production version of the Ford GT was introduced at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January of 2015 and the racing program confirmed last June, the engine of choice was the same twin-turbocharged Ford EcoBoost V6 used by the Daytona Prototypes.

This weekend, the four-car Ford armada is looking to achieve glory in its return to Le Mans. Ford Chip Ganassi Racing is coming off its first victory with the new car, with Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe winning the most recent WeatherTech Championship GTLM race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. At Le Mans, Westbrook and Briscoe will be joined by IndyCar champion Scott Dixon in the No. 69 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team USA Ford GT, with IMSA regulars Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller co-driving the No. 68 with IndyCar star Sebastien Bourdais. IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge regular Billy Johnson is part of the two-car Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK entry.

 “I feel extremely lucky to be part of the program,” Briscoe said. “I feel privileged to have been chosen to be one of the few drivers to develop this car and go race it. I’m definitely a lucky man. Since the first time I drove the car, I knew it had potential to be competitive and go on and win races. There have been a lot of hours at the racetrack, behind the scenes, to get us where we are today.”

Briscoe and Westbrook are currently third in the WeatherTech Championship GTLM standings. After opening the year with a ninth-place finish in the Rolex 24, they finished fifth at Sebring and fourth at Long Beach leading up to their triumph at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Hand and Mueller are eighth in the points, with their best finish sixth at Mazda Raceway. Hand is confident the team can make it two in a row this weekend.

“I really believe we have a chance to win,” Hand said. “I think the preparation we’ve done is really good. Everything has to go right at Le Mans. I expect out of four cars, at least one or two will be contending there in the last hours of the race. I really think we can win.”