Ford shows GT’s potential
Ford’s new mid-engined GT car made its debut in this year’s Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona and four of them will race at Le Mans in June. Chip Ganassi Racing is running two cars in both the WEC and America’s IMSA series, in partnership with Ford Performance and car-builder Multimatic.
Both cars ran into trouble at Daytona, but Ganassi’s drivers kept plugging away so that the cars made the finish, one of them a distant 31st, 46 laps behind, and the other 40th, 176 laps down. One car broke its transmission as a result of fuel-mapping problems and the other encountered electrical problems.
It was dispiriting to hit so much trouble after an exhaustive and largely trouble-free test programme over the last half of 2015, but the Fords were competitive in a hotly contested category featuring factory or factory-backed teams from Corvette, Porsche, BMW and Ferrari, and the Fords clearly have winning potential. The primary goal is to win the GTLM class at Le Mans in the next two years.
Bernie Marcus is Ford Racing’s chief aerodynamicist. “Multimatic had been selected to do the new Ford GT road car and had the capability to build a racer,” he said. “So it was very logical to sub-contract the car-building project to them. We worked very closely with Multimatic on all the aero development. The car was done under the big umbrella of Multimatic and I managed the aero operation at the ARC wind tunnel facility in Indianapolis.”
Multimatic’s vice-president Larry Holt gives full credit to Ford’s global vice-president of engineering Raj Nair for bringing the concept to life. “There’s no question that he’s the visionary who made it happen,” Holt said. “He’s a highly technical guy and he knows all the ins and outs of this programme. To get Ford to do something like this is amazing.
“There’s no way that car would look like it does and perform the way it does without tremendous co-ordination between Multimatic and Ford. It’s a huge effort that’s been going on for more than two years. There was a year of development and planning, working with Ford on both the road car and putting the race car together. There is a distinction between the road and racing side, but there’s a lot of cross-over because they were done in parallel.”
Daytona proved a rough start for the Ford GTs, but nine days later Ganassi’s team tested initial fixes at Sebring. “Coming away from Daytona we know how much work we have to do,” said Ganassi’s general manager Mike Hull. “But we have a terrific race car. It definitely has speed. We demonstrated that during winter testing and we’re just going to work really, really hard to be better the next time we race and better again the time after that.”
Sébastien Bourdais was one of Ganassi’s Ford drivers at Daytona and Sebring. “The design of the car is very aggressive for a GT,” Bourdais said. “It’s very close to a prototype in the design and construction. But with that choice of having a very sweet-looking and aggressive design, you have to work hard to make it the equal of the classic GT cars like the Corvettes and Porsches.
“The car feels very good and is pretty cool to work with. I think there’s a lot of potential for the future because a tremendous amount of resource and experience went into making it work. There’s a lot of power and strength in the support we’re getting from Ford and Multimatic, which is why it’s really cool to be part of this programme. If there are problems, they are very quick to come up with solutions.”
All that, and more, will be required for Ford to beat Corvette, Porsche and Ferrari in a thriving GTLM category at Le Mans.