Ford GT key players reveal favorite memories as program ends

Some of the main players from Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ford GT program share their best moments from the four-year campaign that will wind down this weekend at Petit Le Mans.

Ford GT key players reveal favorite memories as program ends

The program earned 19 wins across the four years, including two triumphs at the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona (2017 and ’18) and one at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (2016).

Interestingly, although the Ford GT never conquered the 12 Hours of Sebring, the engine devised for the car did, when Ganassi’s Riley-Ford Ecoboost won overall in 2014, driven by Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas and Marino Franchitti won the race outright.

The development lead-up to the GT’s campaign is a point that CGR’s managing director Mike Hull pointed out.

“This has been a six-year program,” he said. “The first two years, 2014 and 2015, our team ran a Daytona Prototype car to develop the engine, its components, radiators, heat exchangers, turbos, engine management, and electronics so that it was a totally developed engine package.

“[So] when GT testing began in October of 2015, our team was able to concentrate on the chassis itself as the engine and its accessories that were integral to the Ford engine plugged right in as we were all ready to go. That was a big step, immediately.”

Hull, who has been with Ganassi since 1992, cited the GTs’ 1-3 finish at Le Mans in 2016 as his favorite recollection.

“The Ferrari in second place was also from an American entrant, Risi Competizione,” he said. “When the nine drivers were on the podium, they raised three American flags and played The Star-Spangled Banner. The podium is probably 30 feet in the air, in front of what appeared to be 50,000 spectators on the front straight. The European motor racing fans applauded the flags and the drivers. For an American in France, it was very moving.”

Kevin Groot, IMSA/WEC program supervisor for the squad, declared that the 1-2 at Daytona in 2018 was his high point – “That felt so good.  To have the cars and team run like clockwork for a 24-hour race and with so few yellows, and to be able to dominate like that… just doesn’t happen that often.” Yet Larry Holt, chief technical officer at Multimatic, the company that built the Ford GTs, stated that disaster on the cars’ race debut in the same event two years earlier would be his strongest recollection, primarily because it was in such stark contrast to his favorite memory.

“My favorite memory is from May 16, 2015, when the first Ford GT turned a wheel at Calabogie, where we test cars near Ottawa, and ran faultlessly for two days,” said Holt. “[Driver] Scott Maxwell started to make calls on the setup, something that normally doesn’t happen on the first run unless everything is really good.

“My strongest, overwhelming memory, though, is of the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2016. It is not a good memory but it is a very strong story of how the team [Multimatic, Ford, Ford CGR] overcame adversity. We ran 18,000km of testing between May 2015 and Daytona at the end of January 2016. There were a few small issues that we sorted but nothing that raised any flags on the cars’ robustness and/or durability.

“But, as the world knows, [at the Rolex 24] one car was out of contention in the first hour due to a gearbox shift valve issue that we had never, ever encountered. The other car suffered the same problem and so both were completely out of contention early on. It was an amazing, bad turn of events that I will never forget for how depressed it made me feel, but also how it motivated us all to dig deep and fix that issue and double down on looking at every other system on the car, ending in a trouble-free run for three out of four cars at Le Mans five months later.”

Driver memories

2018 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona - The second-placed #66 Ford GT lineup of Bourdais, Müller and Hand, join team owner Chip Ganassi and their victorious #67 teammates Dixon, Westbrook and Briscoe.

2018 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona - The second-placed #66 Ford GT lineup of Bourdais, Müller and Hand, join team owner Chip Ganassi and their victorious #67 teammates Dixon, Westbrook and Briscoe.

Joey Hand’s fondest memory perhaps inevitably came from that Le Mans triumph, as he was not only sharing the victorious car but also was the one who made the ultimately decisive pass on the Risi Ferrari in the final stint – a moment of historic significance.

“That gave us the lead and we never gave it back,” he said. “The whole story just came together right there, amazingly. The whole 50-year anniversary [since the Ford GT40’s first Le Mans triumph] thing was one thing, but the Ford vs. Ferrari thing played out exactly 50 years later.

“Also, I got to see the replay that’s been in the highlights a lot – the moment they show everyone cheering in the garage. Everyone was thinking, ‘This could be the time.’ It was cool to be part of it.”

Although Ryan Briscoe finished ‘only’ third in another Ford along with co-drivers Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon, the Australian said that day is one of his two favorite moments of the program.

“Being on the podium at Le Mans the first year, with Joey and Dirk [Muller] and Seb [Bourdais] winning and Richard, Scott and I on the podium with them… was such an incredible moment," said the ex-IndyCar star. "It’s my only Le Mans 24 podium and just to be up there with the sea of people below was really incredible.

“Our Rolex 24 at Daytona win [sharing again with Westbrook and Dixon], and again with both cars on the podium, is the second one. It was a hard battle all race long with the #66 car and was just a massive win. Huge excitement.”

Harry Tincknell, one of Ford’s WEC lynchpins, added: “There were some good wins along the way. Our home win at Silverstone was a great one in 2017, but I think the best moment was probably the second place at Le Mans in 2017…  We ran pretty faultlessly at the front most of the way.

“I was third on the final lap and passed the Corvette for second with two corners to go, which we were told was the latest overtake for position in Le Mans history. That was a pretty cool moment. To get on the podium representing Ford was incredible.”

shares
comments
Van Eerd to race in Shanghai after Fuji win

Previous article

Van Eerd to race in Shanghai after Fuji win

Next article

Ghiotto expects to end single-seater career

Ghiotto expects to end single-seater career
Load comments

About this article

Series WEC , IMSA
Drivers Harry Tincknell , Ryan Briscoe , Joey Hand
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing
Author David Malsher-Lopez
Why a Mazda IMSA Prototype title would bring bitter joy Prime

Why a Mazda IMSA Prototype title would bring bitter joy

Can Mazda win this year’s IMSA Prototype championship? Undoubtedly. But it will be the culmination of an achingly hard struggle, after which the brand has decided to quit. David Malsher-Lopez tells the story of a bizarre blend of heartache and positivity.

IMSA
Apr 6, 2021
The GTE dilemma that IMSA has created for the WEC Prime

The GTE dilemma that IMSA has created for the WEC

The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s decision to scrap its GT Le Mans class for 2022 raises the question of whether the FIA World Endurance Championship should phase out GTE cars. But it's a much harder decision than it appears on the surface.

WEC
Feb 3, 2021
Nine things to watch at the 2021 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona Prime

Nine things to watch at the 2021 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona

After a 100-minute sprint race to whet the appetite, the 2021 IMSA SportsCar Championship gets underway properly this weekend. With plenty of significant changes during the winter, here are the key points you need to keep an eye on

IMSA
Jan 29, 2021
Why Magnussen is relishing a fresh start in sportscars Prime

Why Magnussen is relishing a fresh start in sportscars

Having gone over seven years without a race win through spells with McLaren, Renault and Haas, Kevin Magnussen's departure from Formula 1 for IMSA with big-hitters Chip Ganassi Racing could give him what he craves most - a chance of success

IMSA
Jan 29, 2021
Oliver Gavin's Corvette Racing highlights Prime

Oliver Gavin's Corvette Racing highlights

Oliver Gavin has stepped down from the full-time Corvette Racing line-up after a stellar career with the team spanning nearly 20 years. He looks back on a stint that encompassed, among other successes, five Le Mans 24 Hours victories.

Le Mans
Jan 28, 2021
How Tandy joined an exclusive club of endurance legends Prime

How Tandy joined an exclusive club of endurance legends

Victory at last year's Spa 24 Hours meant Nick Tandy had completed the unofficial sextuple crown of the world's six biggest endurance races, becoming the first Briton to do so. Ahead of his fresh start with Corvette Racing, he explains how he did it…

Le Mans
Jan 24, 2021
The 12 greatest Sebring 12 Hours ranked Prime

The 12 greatest Sebring 12 Hours ranked

The 2020 edition of the Florida sportscar classic is finally taking place this weekend, eight months after its traditional date in March. That meant there was plenty of time for Motorsport.com to pour over its previous 67 races and select the best.

IMSA
Nov 11, 2020
Tony Kanaan’s top 10 races – in his own words Prime

Tony Kanaan’s top 10 races – in his own words

The 2004 IndyCar champion and 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan probably hasn’t yet driven his final IndyCar race, but we still asked him for the 10 most significant races of his career. He explained his choices to David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Sep 7, 2020