Ford has doubled its commitment to GT racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship and North America’s IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship.
Fresh from its GTE-Pro category victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours GTE Pro last month, Ford has announced its factory-supported Ford GT race programme will run for a minimum of three more years in both IMSA and FIA WEC competition.
Ford’s original commitment had been for the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
‘‘We wanted to make sure everyone knows that we are committed to sports car racing globally with WEC and IMSA,’’ said Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president and chief technical officer.
‘‘The stated goal of our Ford GT programme was to win Le Mans, and we're very proud that we were able to do that in our first year. To commit to a full, four-year assault on both the IMSA and WEC championships shows how serious we are about taking Ford GT racing around the world.
‘‘We are in motorsport to win races and championships, but just as importantly we are using it to develop our engineering expertise and help develop advancements for production vehicles like EcoBoost engines, advanced aerodynamics and lightweight materials that consumers can use in Ford production vehicles going forward.”
The first-year programme consists of two Ford GT race cars in IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship competition, and two Ford GT race cars in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
‘‘We’re excited and feel the extension of this Ford GT race programme sends an important message to the industry and to enthusiasts that we are committed to global racing at Ford,” said Dave Pericak, global director, Ford Performance.
‘‘But we remain committed to doing racing the right way. And the Ford GT programme is a perfect example of how we are using our racing efforts to help improve the products that Ford consumers can drive every day.
‘‘Developing the GT production car and the race car at the same time has been a challenging task for everyone, but it has also showed how the production vehicle side and racing side of Ford Performance can work together to benefit everyone.’’
The Ford GT has hit winning form in recent weeks scoring a 1-3-4 GTE-Pro class finish at Le Mans on June 19, with France's Sebastien Bourdais, USA's Joey Hand and Germany's Dirk Muller driving the winning No. 68 Ford GT.
Ford GT drivers Billy Johnson, Olivier Pla and Stefan Mucke also lead the FIA WEC GT Drivers' Cup standings. There was more Ford GT success last weekend at the Sahlen's 6 Hour of the Glen at Watkins Glen, New York where Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe led a 1-2 result in the GTLM class ahead of Hand and Muller. The FIA WEC action resumes July 24 at the 6 Hours of Nurburgring in Germany.
The Ford GT represents a new breed of GTE class racer. It will face opposition in 2017 from a new Porsche 911 — which is strongly rumoured to have switched to a mid-engine layout and turbocharging — while Aston Martin is working on a new generation Vantage racer for 2018.