Ford entering the lion’s den
Ford entering the lion’s den
The GTLM battle in IMSA races in recent years has been some of the hardest fought GT competition in the world with BMW, Corvette, Ferrari and Porsche trading blows.
For this season Ford will enter the fray with its new GT – not only in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship but also the FIA World Endurance Championship.
In both championships Michelin has been the tire partner of choice, but Ford has gone a step further. Not only will Bibendum the Michelin man deliver tires for the track, Michelin will provide tire fitments for the Ford Performance road vehicle lineup, including Ford GT, Shelby® GT350 and Shelby GT350R Mustang, Fiesta ST, Focus ST and RS, and F-150 Raptor.
Earlier today Ford and Michelin had a “meeting of the minds” at Daytona with drivers, executives and engineers from both brands joining forces to discuss the year ahead (pictured above)
American ace Joey Hand joined forces with Ford 12 months and hand now returned to the class where he won an American Le Mans Series championship in 2011.
“We have been on an accelerated learning curve here compared to normal years and compared to other teams,” Hand said.
“We just got the car the night of Petit Le Mans last year and were now here so it is only about 2 ½ months of testing.
“We’re just trying to be diligent and make sure the car functions right and does everything correctly.
The GTLM rule book has been updated for 2016 with more downforce and more horsepower enjoyed by all brands. Ford joins BMW and Ferrari in debuting new cars while Porsche and Corvette have updated their existing machines to meet the new challenge.
While the new global Ford program certainly has its sights set on victory, Hand is aware in the early stages just getting a race finish with a brand new car is a realistic goal for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
“Going the race distance at the Rolex 24 is our primary goal. Putting laps on the car has been our primary thing. It’s not as much set-up stuff as it is just getting lots of laps,” Hand said.
“Even here at the Daytona test we just want to do as many laps as possible because we want to finish the race – first and foremost.
“From the driving standpoint it is cool car. I always say you know a race car is good when it doesn’t do anything weird.
“You can work from that. We’ve tried to make the car as comfortable as possible and make it do long runs.”
While Hand has driven mid-engined prototypes, this is his first time aboard a mid-engined GT car. The Californian has been out of the GT ranks for a number of years on a full-time basis after his DTM stint with BMW and last year driving for Ford and Chip Ganassi in the Prototype class in IMSA competition.
“I was really happy when I first got in the car because I didn’t know what to expect. I haven’t driven any other GT car for a long time,” he said.
“I think Ford did a really good job and from the mid-engine aspect perspective – it doesn’t do anything different. It drives really nicely, it has good balance and your can push it really hard.”