MONTEREY, Ca. May 2, 2016 – Fifty years ago this June, Ford stunned the racing world by taking on Ferrari and winning at the fabled Le Mans 24 Hour race with the Ford GT. In Monterey, Ford Performance delivered the first step on its plan to return to Le Mans this June, by taking the GTLM class victory in the Monterey Sports Car Grand Prix.
Like Ford, Michelin arrived at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with a plan. “The goal was to give our Michelin technical partner teams an opportunity to further their preparations for Le Mans by racing on our latest Le Mans tires,” said Chris Baker, director of motorsport, Michelin North America.
“The Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca circuit is very different from Le Mans, but spending time with the latest tires will help our teams from Corvette Racing, Ford, Risi Competizione Ferrari and the Porsche factory drivers when they arrive at Le Mans,” said Baker.
For the Chip Ganassi Racing Ford Performance team it meant a switch from the Michelin tire designs used in the first three races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship to a Michelin tire developed for the mid-engine Ford GT and Ferrari F488 GTE and Le Mans.
“The latest Michelin tires seemed to work great with our car,” said Mark Rushbrook, technical director motorsports, Ford Performance.
“The car was almost perfect all weekend,” said Ford GT winning co-driver Ryan Briscoe. “We unloaded from the trailer with great balance on the car, were near the top in every session and qualified on the front row. Scoring our first win with the Ford GT before Le Mans is a huge win for our entire team and everyone involved.”
“We had pace all weekend,” said co-driver Richard Westbrook, who drove the twin turbo V6 Ford EcoBoost powered Ford GT the final 1 hour 17 minutes of the 2 hour race without a final fuel splash to take the win. Ironically finishing second was the class pole-winning Scuderia Corsa Ferrari driven by Daniel Serra and Alessandro Pier Guidi.
Just ten months ago, Ford announced its plan to return to Le Mans with Ford Performance and the new Ford GT. “One of the first decisions that Ford Performance made was to ask Michelin to be their technical partner,” said Baker. “We were honored to be chosen and we congratulate Ford and the Ford Performance and CGR team on an exciting first win,” said Baker.
Finishing third was the Porsche North America 911 RSR driven by Earl Bamber and Frederic Makowiecki. Corvette Racing’s Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia finished fourth.
The 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours (June 18-19) in Le Mans, France is the next race for the North American based GTLM teams.
- Corvette is the defending Le Mans GT champion and the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring GTLM class winner.
- Porsche won the equivalent GTE Pro class in the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship, which is highlighted by Le Mans.
- The Houston-based Risi Competizione Ferrari team is a three-time GT class winner at Le Mans.
- A European-based Ferrari (AF Corse) team recently won the opening race of the 2016 FIA-WEC series at Silverstone England.
- All are Michelin technical partner teams