The 24 Hours of Le Mans or sometimes called the “Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency” is an annual active sports car race held near the town of Le Mans in France. It is considered as the world’s oldest active sports car race in endurance racing since it started in 1923. The race is held along the Circuit de la Sarthe which is mostly composed of closed public roads and a specialist racing circuit. It is one of the ultimate tests of endurance in the automotive world where teams are to race for 24 hours without sustaining any mechanical damages on their vehicles. They must also be able to balance speed while speeding through the race track.
In the early 1960s, Henry Ford II envisioned one of their American chariots to join the prestigious Le Mans race. From that dream came one of the most celebrated Ford creations – the GT40. Short for “Grand Touring” and representing its 40-inch overall height, the GT40 was built to make a name in the endurance racing circuit. It was a high performance racing car built to outperform its competitors in the field of international endurance racing. Its main goal was to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans and to beat Italian automaker Ferrari, the then six-time defending champion.
True enough, the GT40 was built to stand out in the race circuit. It won the 24 Hours of Le Mans for four consecutive years. First was the 1-2-3 finish in 1966 via the MK II version for which Ford became the first American manufacturer to win the said event. The next victory was in 1967 with the MK IV which was the only car at the Le Mans that was purely American made. And the next two winnings were in 1968 and 1969 for which the MK I GT40 became the first car in the history of Le Mans that had the same chassis and was able to win the race more than once. The GT40 truly has served its purpose during those years.
Now fast forward fifty years after its first win, Ford GT has yet again made its creators proud. At the recently held 2016 24 Le Mans 24 Hours, the new Ford GT No. 88 successfully snatched victory from the No. 82 Ferrari just as it was about to win the race.
The No. 68 GT was neck-and-neck with the No. 82 Ferrari but the American chariot eventually took the lead in the 20th hour of the endurance race. That’s a win exactly half a century after it first kicked Ferrari’s butts. It was a sweet victory for Sebastian Bourdais, Joey Hand and Dirk Muller but it was sweeter for Bourdais who has previously competed 10 times at the Le Mans but it was with the No. 68 GT when he finally achieved his first win. A double celebration it is!
The No. 68 GT became the overall GT winner of this year’s Le Mans but it was not the only Ford achiever for the said event. The No. 66 GT finished in fourth place while No. 67 came in ninth. It was unfortunate for these two GTs because it met some problems during the race; the No. 66 GT suffered an electric problem that caused its lag in the race while the No. 67 GT had an issue with its gearbox at the beginning of the race but fortunately was able to catch up. No. 69 GT finished at third place.
This very historic moment will be cherished forever especially for Bill Ford, the American automaker’s current chairman and great grandchild of founder Henry Ford. The Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team was able to deliver what Ford represents – “innovation, determination and true teamwork”. Kudos to the winning team as well as the participants for their great sportsmanship and a job well done!