Ford has earlier today confirmed its much anticipated return to international GT racing and the Le Mans 24 Hours, starting in 2016.
As predicted the new Ford GT supercar revealed at the Detroit Auto Show in January will provide the basis for a LM GTE Pro class contender to race against Ferrari, Aston Martin, Porsche and Corvette in the premier international GT racing category.
The racing programme commemorates the 50th anniversary of Ford’s 1966 Le Mans 24 Hours victory – and subsequent 1967, 1968 and 1969 success at Le Mans. The first win was achieved by New Zealand drivers Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon.
At a press conference held at Le Mans earlier this morning (NZ time) it was confirmed the new Ford GT will compete in the full 2016 schedule of both the FIA World Endurance Championship and TUDOR United Sports Car Championship in North America.
A car in a red, white and blue livery was shown at the press conference and Ford says the car is already fully operational. The car is numbered ``66’’ referring to the 1966 victory.
It will be two-team, four-car effort and the race debut for the new car will be the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the opening round of the TUDOR United Sports Car Championship in January.
"When the GT40 competed at Le Mans in the 1960s, Henry Ford II sought to prove Ford could beat endurance racing’s most legendary manufacturers,” said Bill Ford, executive chairman, Ford Motor Company.
“We are still extremely proud of having won this iconic race four times in a row, and that same spirit that drove the innovation behind the first Ford GT still drives us today,’’ Ford said.
The two Ford teams will be operated by Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (CGRFS) which since 2014 has run Ford EcoBoost-powered entries in the Daytona Prototype class of the TUDOR series with significant overall wins at the 12 Hours of Sebring and Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Ford will use the endurance racing programme to showcase its lightweight and efficiency technologies. The GT has a carbon fibre chassis, advanced aerodynamics and is powered by the 3.5-litre EcoBoost V6 turbo engine developed by Roush Yates Engines.
It’s expected to be a separate two-car effort for both series and a four-car entry at Le Mans in 2016. While drivers will be announced at a later date, long-time Ganassi sports car driver Scott Pruett attended the Le Mans launch.
``We’ve won races and championships, but we’ve never run Le Mans,’’ said team owner Chip Ganassi.
``When presented the opportunity to compete with the all-new Ford GT on the world’s biggest sports car stage, and on the 50th anniversary of one of the most storied victories in racing history, how could any race team not want to be part of that?
``Will it be a challenge? Absolutely, but we couldn’t be with a better partner than Ford.’’
The Ford GT will be the first turbocharged car to race in the modern GTE-Pro category, although a new Ferrari based on the turbocharged 488 model is also expected.