Ford’s forgotten flyer

Author

Jack Phillips

View profile
Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

Current page

181

Current page

182

Current page

183

Current page

184

Current page

185

Current page

186

Current page

187

Current page

188

Current page

189

Current page

190

Current page

191

Current page

192

Current page

193

Current page

194

Current page

195

Current page

196

Current page

197

Current page

198

Current page

199

Current page

200

Current page

201

Current page

202

Current page

203

Current page

204

Current page

205

Current page

206

Current page

207

Current page

208

Current page

209

Current page

210

Current page

211

Current page

212

Current page

213

Current page

214

Current page

215

Current page

216

Current page

217

Current page

218

Current page

219

Current page

220

Current page

221

Current page

222

Current page

223

How a little-known enthusiast engineered an unlikely return to GT racing for a disinterested blue oval

There’s an often-overlooked footnote in Ford’s supposed 50-year absence from Le Mans, one that came out of Switzerland and is tinged with tragedy. The story starts in 2005 when the Ford GT40 was reimagined as the ‘GT’, having been revealed in concept form three years earlier to celebrate the marque’s centenary. Three inches taller than the original, Ford resisted the GT43 moniker and again took aim at Ferrari: “Little kids – and big ones – dream about Ferraris, not 360 Modenas,” said Ford’s then-president Steve Lyons. “We want people to dream about the Ford GT and put the emphasis on the Ford brand.”

The new car brought with it a fresh focus on Ford’s GT40 and Le Mans heritage, but no race car was forthcoming from Motor City – despite the obvious marketing benefits of such a programme. As far as Ford was concerned, the GT would be a road car only. 

Step forward Martin Bartek, a Swiss businessman and racing enthusiast, who took it upon himself to develop racing versions of the car. To do that he formed Matech Concepts and started first developing a GT3 GT before moving on to a GT1.

“Ford wasn’t involved at all,” says Bas Leinders, who with Marc VDS Racing was Bartek’s first customer and shared a degree of the development work. “He [Bartek] tried to push Ford to get involved but they weren’t interested in promoting the GT, it was all about the Mustang at that point for them. That was a sore point for Martin. He invested a lot of money in it and it wasn’t easy to generate more. He probably wasn’t getting enough from the sponsors and he ran into money troubles.” 

Despite the lack of funds, the project had its successes. The GT3 version won its class in the 2009 Spa 24 Hours. Finishing runner-up a year later, the GT bowed out with pole in 2011 but couldn’t convert that into victory. It was certifiably the best GT3 car in the world in 2008, when Matech secured the FIA GT3 Championship for teams. 

The GT1 came close to doing the unthinkable in 2010 by winning its class at Le Mans. Matech led for the first nine hours, running 1-2 with VDS in the opening stages until Leinders crashed heavily out of second place. The team had two laps in hand at one point, but engine failure put paid to what could have been victory and another place in the history books: the final GT1 class win at Le Mans. The Ford GT can also lay some claim in helping revive the career of Formula 1’s most highly rated: Romain Grosjean. The Frenchman stepped back into sports cars to re-establish his career after a difficult seven races for Renault F1. He made history, too, winning the first-ever FIA GT1 World Championship round at Abu Dhabi in 2010 alongside Thomas Mutsch.

“Romain drove for Matech,” Leinders says, “Maxime Martin, Fred Makowiecki and Richard Westbrook were among those that drove for us at VDS. So there were some really good drivers, it was very ambitious and the results were there. With a little more backing it could have been even better.”

Despite the reputation that comes with American muscle car racers, being behind the wheel was rewarding. “It was a really nice car to drive,” Leinders says. “ It wasn’t the easiest and some of the drivers struggled. We had some good results that first year, although we from time to time were a little unlucky with reliability problems. In general, it was actually quite good.

“The car warranted Ford’s involvement,” adds Leinders. “The later GT1 was a big, big progression. It had carbon brakes, bigger tyres, the suspension was a bit harder and it had good aero.” 

Sadly its true potential was never to be seen: Bartek died in 2011 aged just 44, bringing a sad end to the project that had come so close to succeeding against the odds. “He got into racing for fun and step by step became a constructor,” says Leinders. “Maybe he underestimated it, the impact of the money and the effort that it needed. 

“Maybe if we had won then Ford would have got involved. But there are so many ‘what ifs’ in racing.” 

Related articles

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore

Related products

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam nonumy eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore