Ford GT40 - 1968

Cette collection est une adaptation de 24H Le Mans ® Le auto delle corsa più leggendaria al mondo Éditeur : Centauria Editore s.r.l. 

The myths of Le Mans FORD GT40

During the season when the CSI overturned the technical regulations to the point of encouraging Ferrari not to participate in the Sport Prototype world championship, the Ford GT40 which won Le Mans for the third time was entered by the " private " British team J.W. Automotive Engineering Ltd. by John Wyer.

The Ford GT40 won Le Mans in 1968 with a 5-litre engine, taking advantage of the accidents and mechanical problems that plagued the army of battle-hardened Porsche 908s. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. 

The 24 Hours of Le Mans had always been held in June until 1968, when the May upheaval in France persuaded the organisers to move the 36th edition of the event to the end of September. This postponement had no effect on the weather conditions, which were once again marked by long periods of rain. Probably more decisive was the CSI's decision to change the regulations for the race, allowing only prototypes with a cubic capacity of up to 3 litres and sports cars (with a minimum production run of 50) with a cubic capacity of up to 5 litres to start. This change was made by the J.W. Automotive Engineering Ltd. team, which had manufactured the Ford GT40 road cars and managed the competition cars since 1966. 

1. The number 40 which follows the GT symbol indicates the height of the car in inches, i.e. approximately one metre. This 'lowering' is intended to optimise the aerodynamics, which at first proved to be so poor that it required a great deal of fine-tuning.

2. Unlike other rear-engine sports cars, the Ford GT40 featured a radiator mounted in the traditional front position and laterally or behind the engine.

3. The GT40's Halibrand wheels, made of magnesium to reduce weight, were configured to facilitate cooling of the brakes and to allow the use of a central mounting with wing nuts of the knock-off type, easy to tighten or release with a hard rubber or lead hammer.

© IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. 

Another major innovation for 1968 was the introduction of the Ford chicane, designed to slow down the car's speed on the straight part into the pits, which at the time still lacked a protective wall.

Following the successes of 1966 and 1967, Ford was the obvious favourite at the start. Its three GT40s in the emblematic Gulf Research Company sky blue and orange livery were to face tough opposition: first and foremost the new Porsche 908s, followed by the Alpine A220 and Matra MS630 prototypes, as well as the gas turbine-powered Howmet TX. For the challenge, Wyer converted the 1967 Mirage M1, derived from the Ford GT40 but now unsuitable for the world championship, into a new version of the original. The 1968 car was a GT40 Mk I with a 4.9-litre V8 engine mounted in an aluminium chassis and clad in an even lighter body. The new GT40 also benefited from aerodynamic and suspension improvements that had been introduced over the years after the original cars, introduced in 1964, had suffered from significant reliability and driving problems.

These problems, among others, forced Ford to dismantle its racing department in Europe and entrust the management of the GT40s to Wyer who, in 1966, won the blue oval its first world title. 

1. The 5-litre Ford GT40 that won the 1968 Le Mans (chassis no. 1075) was used again the following year. Although it was not a world champion, the model still achieved some fine results, including the incredible success at Le Mans of Jacky Ickx and Jackie Oliver, who started last.

2. Despite Ford's efforts to limit its weight, the GT40 was not a lightweight car. One of the choices made was the use of magnesium suspension components.

3. Solutions to make the GT40 easier to race included large-opening doors and sliding shutters on the plastic windows. The design of the doors made access to the car easier for the drivers, allowing them to duck down and slip into the cabin.

© IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. 

The second title was secured in 1968 thanks to the decisive victory at Le Mans of Pedro Rodriguez and Lucien Bianchi, who successfully blocked out the competition, starting with Porsche's 908, admitting that it had reliability problems. Their success was only threatened by Bianchi's distress when he spotted the wreck of his brother Mauro's Alpine on the descent to Tertre Rouge. The team reassured the driver about the condition of his brother and Rodriguez's GT40, and Bianchi was able to continue his race towards victory, achieved five laps ahead of the next classified car, the private Porsche 907L from the Swiss team Tartaruga.

A. LThe large opening in the bonnet is used to extract the air passing through the radiator. Air flow is accelerated by the inclined "lip" shape.  © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. 

B. On racing cars, the engine hood is raised towards the rear and its large opening angle facilitates access to the mechanical parts.  © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. 

C. In 2019, Ford is paying tribute to the GT40 with the GT Heritage Edition. Powered by a 3.5-litre Ecoboost V6, it boasts 655 bhp, and its design reflects that of its legendary ancestor. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. 

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