Ford goes for Daytona, Sebring double

March 1, 2018

Ford goes for Daytona, Sebring double

March 1, 2018

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing enters the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with a chance to complete the “36 Hours of Florida” sweep.

If Ford does so with either of its two Ford GTs, it will be the third different manufacturer in five years to do so in the GT Le Mans class.

Under the unified IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship banner, both Sebring and the Rolex 24 at Daytona are on the same calendar. And in each of the first three years, the same manufacturer won both races in class.

Porsche did this in 2014. Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet and Richard Lietz won Daytona in the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR. Then at Sebring, Patrick Long, Joerg Bergmeister and Michael Christensen won Sebring in the No. 912 car.

Corvette pulled it off each of the next two years, in both cases with the same car.

Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Ryan Briscoe doubled up in 2015 in the No. 3 Corvette C7.R. A year later, it was the trio of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Marcel Fassler in the No. 4 Corvette.

Only last year has a manufacturer in GTLM not gone back-to-back at Daytona and Sebring. Ford won Daytona, but Corvette seized the win at Sebring.

Ford has its second chance in as many years to complete the Florida sweep this year, and both its teams are determined to pull it off following a 1-2 at Daytona.

Briscoe, coincidentally, has the chance to go back-to-back with both Corvette and Ford in Florida. He shared the Rolex 24 win with Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon in the No. 67 Ford GT. The sister car of Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais was second in the No. 66 Ford.

Briscoe hailed his two co-drivers and how they’ve meshed as a unit, to fuel their success.

“You’ve got to be ready to compromise; it’s like a marriage,” Briscoe laughs. “That’s the main difference from single-seater stuff, as it’s 100 percent tuned around yourself.

“Now you find what works for both of you as a couple. I think we do a great job of it, and Dirk and Joey do an awesome job of it as well. You see Corvette… and they keep their driver pairings pretty consistent.”

Hand, who like Briscoe is a past Sebring class winner, explained what it would mean to topple Corvette’s three-race Sebring win streak and deliver the new version Ford GT its first Sebring win.

“I think we’re the team and group that can do it,” he says. “The Ganassi program has won here before, and Dirk and I have won here. So there is definitely the opportunity.

“It’s so grueling on the car. Stay out of trouble here. I come to Sebring, it’s a joy to drive. People say it’s a flat track on an airfield… but it’s so cool.

“The bumpiness makes the race track. Turn 17 would be a lot easier if it was smooth. But you have to know where to place the car. It produces great races, as you’ve seen over the years. Plenty of times I’ve been second or third, but it’s always a dogfight.”

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