Ford GT LM
Fifty years after the historic battle of 1966, Ford was back to battle against Ferrari on the Sarthe circuit. The American giant deliberately choose the occasion carefully, announcing its return to the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2015 and preparing a car that was to be the successor of the formidable GT40 Mk II, which was able to monopolise all three podium places fifty years earlier.
The car constructed for the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours, known simply as the GT, is not intended as a memorial to its 2004 namesake, based on the same styling and mechanical layout as its ancestor but with slightly larger dimensions. The 2016 GT was a completely new car, built without cutting back on carbon or active aerodynamic solutions (at least for the road version), but with a decisive 'reduction' from an engine point of view by abandoning the legendary V8 of the 1966 car in favour of a more powerful 3.5-litre supercharged V6 from the EcoBoost family.
1.Suspension is of the push-rod type at the front and rear, but without the self-levelling system found on the road version.
2. The EcoBoost V6 engine is a close relative of the one used in the powerful F-Series pick-ups, retaining the cylinder block and cylinder heads. This GT road car boasts more than 650 bhp
3. The GT LM has a distinctive teardrop-shaped passenger compartment, with recessed panels that allow air to flow around them without creating turbulence.
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The challenge was slightly less pungent compared to the one launched fifty years earlier: firstly, there was no absolute victory, almost impossible to achieve against the hyper-fast prototypes of the LMP1 and LMP2 categories (where the classic duel between Porsche, Toyota and Audi was being repeated), but the challenge was in the GTE Pro category in which Scuderia Ferrari had been competing for several years. Maranello did not respond as emphatically to the challenge from its American rival, and entered however a new car: the 458 GT2, which had won several times and remained in the GTE Am category, was succeeded in 2016 by the 488 GTE, powered by a twin-turbo 3.9 V8. Other contenders in the category were the historic Porsche 911 RSR, the Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE and the Chevrolet Corvette C7.R.
1. As on the classic GT40s, there are two large extractors on the bonnet that direct air towards the roof, and headlights under a streamlined fairing.
2. The changes made to the GTE Pro regulations for 2016 require a hatch to be fitted in the roof so that the driver can escape in the event of an accident without being forced to bend his back.
3. Compared to the road car version, the GT LM drops the active, retractable spoiler in favour of a fixed spoiler and a larger lower extractor.
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The four Ford GT LMs entrusted to the team of former American driver Chip Ganassi proved to be the strongest in their category during qualifying, which they completed by finishing in the top five of the category, the leading car, number 68, conceding just 6 seconds to the last of the LMP2s. During the race, the battle was tighter, but after an intense neck-and-neck race with the Ferrari 488 GTE of Giancarlo Fisichella, Mateo Malucelli and Tony Vilander, it was once again the American car driven by Joey Hand, Dirk Müller and Sébastien Bourdais that took the lead of the GTE group, holding on to the lead almost to the finish, despite a penalty incurred at the end of the race for exceeding the speed limit on the pit lane.
The Ferrari 488 GTE team was only able to defend its second place by holding off the GTs no. 69 and 66 and preventing the three Fords from finishing grouped together like the GT40 Mk IIs 50 years earlier. By the 24th hour, the #68 GT LM of Hand, Müller and Bourdais had clocked up 340 laps, 44 fewer than the Porsche 919 Hybrid of Marc Lieb, Romain Dumas and Neel Jani, which was the first absolute surprise of the event after the Toyota withdrew a few minutes before the end of the French classic.
A. The Ford GT LM's bodywork at the 2016 Sema Show in Las Vegas bears the scars of its victorious adventure at Le Mans a few months earlier. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés.
B.The success in France prompted Ford to exhibit GT No. 68 at the Detroit Auto Show to showcase the refined technologies developed by the Performance department. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés.
C. During a night halt in the pits, the team's mechanics work on the winning GT LM. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés.