IT’S ALMOST as if the last fi fty years never happened.
Back in 1966, Ford aimed to end Ferrari’s dominance at Le Mans with its balls-out GT40, eventually taking a 1-2-3 in possibly the greatest ever motorsport coup. The factory Ford also won in ’67, with privateer cars cleaning up in ’68 and ’69, but this year’s event was the fi rst time back for an offi cial factory effort.
Even Bill Ford Jr had admitted that a win at the world’s most prestigious endurance race was probably a bit optimistic.
The Blue Oval even came close to a clean sweep of the podium, protesting that the Risi Competition Ferrari 488 GTE had ignored a stop-go penalty to serve and fi x a broken position light. Ferrari counter-protested, their position was upheld by the stewards and Ford had to settle for a 1-3-4.
Despite some grumblings from fellow competitors that Ford had gamed the balance of power regulations by sandbagging before the race, it was hard to argue with the pace of the GTs. The day started badly for Ford, with one of the four entrants, car #67 pushed to the garage for a gearbox fi x that would put it out of contention. Under wet conditions at the start of the race, the GTs couldn’t hold station with the Porsches and Ferraris yet came good as the track dried out.
After 4624km and in front of over a quarter of a million fans, Dirk Muller’s #68 car took the chequered fl ag and a famous victory for the Blue Oval.
Although this year’s race might well be remembered as the one Toyota lost, Ford’s victory in GTE Pro is one for the ages.
“There was so much effort, so much emotion, and to be the one that wins the trophy to give to the Ford family and everyone involved is very special,” said Seb Bourdais, who along with Muller and Joey Hand piloted the #66 car to the win. “Everything aligned for us today -- the history, the Ferrari/Ford battle, 50 years on and the Ford family being here.
To come out on top of all that is an amazing feeling.”