Ford Ganassi GT program set for final farewell

October 7, 2019

Ford Ganassi GT program set for final farewell

October 7, 2019

It was developed in secrecy, revealed at Le Mans, and then released to conquer the world. Ford didn’t hide its ambitions or goals for its new GT.

In many respects, it was already “mission accomplished” for the program when three of the Fords finished 1-3-4 in the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans in the GTE-Pro class, 50 years on from the Ford GT’s famous 1966 win there.

However while Ford succeeded on a global scale, its most consistent performance came in IMSA, with the Chip Ganassi Racing team.

Over four years, Ford has won 13 of 43 races in IMSA, and scored 15 pole positions. Pairing Dirk Mueller and Joey Hand, longtime co-drivers and friends, proved a natural. Meanwhile ex-Corvette Racing third drivers Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook found greater success paired together at the other American brand.

Ford found a way to win different kinds of races. Sometimes it was by out-and-out pace, other times by great strategy calls from the pit box.

Its 2018 season was bittersweet because both driver pairings had a shot at the championship, but wound up inadvertently taking points off each other.

The Nos. 66 and 67 cars alternated wins in a four-race in a row win streak last summer at Watkins Glen, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Lime Rock Park and Road America. It came after a dominant, crushing performance in the 2018 Rolex 24 At Daytona where the two cars combined to lead all but nine of the 783 laps.

However the Ford factory program looks to finish with a flourish. The No. 67 car has scored a pair of strategic masterpiece triumphs this year back-to-back at Lime Rock Park (running a three-stop strategy to run faster, harder) and at Road America (extending its tire life and pace to run only a two-stop strategy). Meanwhile the No. 66 car got on the board at Monterey, with Hand scoring an overdue first win at his home circuit and he and Mueller returning to victory lane for the first time since Lime Rock, 2018.

Heading into the final race weekend, drivers hold fond memories of this four-year run.

“It’s been a great four years and I’m sad that it’s ending,” Mueller said. “Joey and I are super close and are mates, which is probably not really unique in this level of racing, but I remember my very first test in 2015 and as soon as I touched ground and got out of the rental car, I felt like I’d been with the team forever. That’s a unique feeling, what you normally probably don’t get. There are no big egos. Everyone is as important as the next person. Everyone is working hand in hand for that one goal, winning races.”

Briscoe added, “A good part of the program has just been being part of the program from Day 1 until the end. It’s such a historic program with such heavy involvement with everyone at Ford. It’s just been so much fun rewriting history and comparing what we were doing to the 1960s. And it’s been a really special time of our racing careers. I’ve been proud of all of us having a leading role of what we did the last four years.”

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