WeatherTech Championship Teams Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, Scuderia Corsa Ferrari Earn Victories In Le Mans 24 Hours
Sunday, June 19, 2016

A pair of full-time IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams – Ford Chip Ganassi Racing and Scuderia Corsa – earned class victories and WeatherTech Championship teams swept the GTE Pro class in the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans.

On the 50th anniversary of Ford’s historic overall victory in the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team USA trio of Dirk Müller, Joey Hand and Sebastien Bourdais scored the GTE Pro class victory in the No. 68 Ford GT. In the GTE Am class, 2015 WeatherTech Championship GT Daytona class champions Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell combined with Jeff Segal to earn the class victory in the No. 62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia.

The GTE Pro class also featured a podium sweep for regular WeatherTech Championship competitors, as the No. 82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE team of Giancarlo Fisichella, Toni Vilander and Matteo Malucelli took second place ahead of the No. 69 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team USA Ford GT shared by Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon.

“On behalf of IMSA, I am honored to congratulate Ford, Ferrari, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing and owner Chip Ganassi, Scuderia Corsa and owner Giacomo Mattioli; drivers Joey Hand, Dirk Müller, Sebastien Bourdais, Bill Sweedler, Townsend Bell and Jeff Segal; and all involved for their well-deserved victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans,” said IMSA President Scott Atherton. “We also must congratulate the No. 82 Risi Competizione Ferrari team and the No. 69 Ford GT team for earning podium results and all IMSA competitors in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The WeatherTech Championship has been recognized for featuring the best GT racing in the world which was proven once again at Le Mans this year.”

This is the second consecutive GTE Pro victory for a WeatherTech Championship team at Le Mans, as Corvette Racing earned the class win last year with Tommy Milner, Oliver Gavin and Jordan Taylor in the No. 64 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R.

The victory for the No. 68 Ford GT team capped a dream week at Le Mans for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing in its first race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Muller qualified the No. 68 Ford GT on the class pole position ahead of Briscoe in the No. 69 Ford GT, with Ganassi’s UK-based Ford GT teams qualifying fourth and fifth.

Both the No. 68 and No. 69 teams ran at or near the front of the GTE Pro field throughout the 24 Hours and battled the No. 82 Risi team for the class lead for much of the second half of the race. The decisive moment for the No. 68 team came with four-and-a-half hours remaining in the race when Hand took the lead from Malucelli on Le Mans’ famed Mulsanne Straight. Müller drove the car to the checkered flag, beating Fisichella to the stripe by one minute.

“It’s great,” Hand said. “This is crazy. Hashtag America, that’s what I would say. I don’t know what to say. Just a great group of people, just a lot of great people, that’s what this is all about. This is a lot of hard work, we put it all on the line for them as drivers today. We didn’t leave anything out there, and the car just kept on truckin’. It was a great day.”

The Le Mans victory adds to an incredible racing résumé for Chip Ganassi Racing. The team owns victories in motorsports crown jewel races in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida, Indianapolis 500 and Daytona 500, in addition to multiple sports car and IndyCar championships.

“You know, I’m just lucky to have great people to work with and work for,” Ganassi said. “Representing Ford 50 years after their historic win here, and now to come back with a great team of people and great partners, it’s great. I want to say thanks to my team, everybody that’s involved with this deal from head to toe, it’s incredible. This is right up there with all our wins. The race I always want to win is the next one, but this one is going to go in the books as a crowning jewel.”

It was another crown jewel victory for Bell, Sweedler, Segal and the Scuderia Corsa team as well. Bell and Sweedler previously won the GT Daytona class in the 2014 Rolex 24 At Daytona, the 2014 Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup with other teams and the 2015 WeatherTech Championship GTD title with Scuderia Corsa. Segal, meanwhile, teamed with Bell and Sweedler to win the 2014 Rolex 24, and took the 2016 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring GTD class victory with Scuderia Corsa and drivers Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan.

The No. 62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari dominated the second half of the race, topping the hourly GTE Am results from the 13th hour on. Segal brought the car home nearly three minutes ahead of Emmanuel Collard in the No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari to secure the victory.

“Amazing,” said Bell. “What a terrific race. The Ferrari was exceptional, and my teammates – Jeff and this guy [Sweedler] was so fast, he was a rocket ship out there, an absolute rocket ship. Not only did we win, but we won with a margin, which was more than you can ever hope for.”

Next up for the WeatherTech Championship is the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen on Sunday, July 3, which also is the third round of the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup. The race will be televised live on FS1 beginning at 10:30 a.m. ET.