Will Ford make it four marques in four years at Long Beach?

April 4, 2018

Will Ford make it four marques in four years at Long Beach?

April 4, 2018

Parity is one of the top selling points for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GT Le Mans class.

With entries from four different manufacturers, each fielding a two-car effort, it’s safe to say that on almost any given weekend, any of the Michelin technical partner teams can win the race.

Long Beach has been a particularly unpredictable race the last several years. The 100-minute race is the shortest race on the IMSA schedule. It only features one pit stop, and the timing of that stop often proves crucial to the eventual race outcome.

BMW, Porsche and Corvette have won this race in the last three years. Now, the opportunity exists that the fourth full-time manufacturer entrant in GTLM, Ford, could win to make it a four-in-four run of different winners.

BMW dominated the 2015 race with Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner taking the win in their No. 25 BMW Z4 GTE, for the BMW Team RLL outfit.

The last two years have featured chaotic endings that changed the outcome.

Porsche capitalized with its No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR of Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet in 2016, when its second car (No. 912) collided with Tommy Milner’s No. 4 Corvette C7.R in 2016.

Then last year, Milner snuck through to a surprise win after his teammate, Antonio Garcia, got blocked in at the hairpin by three crashed cars from the GT Daytona class.

This year’s Long Beach will be only the third street race for the Ford GTs, since their 2016 debut.

They were just off the podium in 2016 with Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller finishing fourth in the No. 66 car. Then last year, teammates Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook were second in the No. 67 car.

History has been good to Hand, Mueller, Briscoe and the Chip Ganassi Racing team at Long Beach, but not under the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing umbrella.

Hand and Mueller won here for BMW in 2011, in the same year they won the American Le Mans Series GT championship. They followed that up with back-to-back runner-up finishes in 2012 and 2013. Mueller added another runner-up finish co-driving with John Edwards in 2014.

Briscoe is a past polesitter in the IndyCar race at Long Beach (2012), although he had to start 10 places further back after an engine change made after qualifying. The Ganassi team has won the IndyCar race on six occasions (1996-1999, 2009, 2015). Ganassi added an IMSA overall win here in 2014 in the Daytona Prototype class, with Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas driving a Ford-powered prototype.

Briscoe and Westbrook enter Long Beach with a five-point championship lead over Tandy and Pilet (63-58). Ford holds a two-point edge over Porsche (65-63) in the Manufacturer’s Championship.

Can Ford and Ganassi win together in the GTLM class at Long Beach? They’ll go for it Saturday, April 14, at 4 p.m. ET on FOX.

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