Ford at Le Mans - American view

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WHEN Ford so convincingly dominated the Le Mans 24-hour Race this year European journalists with a bias towards Ferrari wrote about the might of Detroit and described in detail why the American driver Miles, who had intended to dead-heat with his Ford team-mate, wasn’t awarded the race when this dead-heat was disallowed. Not unnaturally, perhaps, the American monthly Road & Track has been considering how it can justify the Ford victory. Its John R. Bond points out that although the Fords had 7-litre engines . against Ferrari’s 4-litre, they were rocker-arm Stock units, but with alloy heads, and used a single 4-choke carburetter, Whereas Ferrari used a twin o.h.c. V12 engine. Road & Track quotes the standard NASCAR. Ford engine as giving over 520 b.h.p, with a single carburetter and the Le Mans power units as being a detuned version developing about 475 b.h.p. As, says Bond, the Ferraris were around 600 lb. lighter than the Fords, and had a smaller frontal area and smoother lines, they gave away very little speed to the Fords, in spite of being down by 50 to 75 b.h.p. on power. He quotes the 1966 Le Mans Fords as slower than in 1965— capable of over 200-m.p.h. but not the 218 m.p.h. seen on the long straight during the 1965 race.

Having equalised the rivals technically. Bond turns his attention to the myth of the mighty dollar. He suggests that the claim that Ford spent 9-million dollars to win this year at Le Mans applies to their racing expenditure since 1964. He says, further, that Ferrari has also spent lots of dough on this race, more, argues Bond, provided one equates labour costs at a proper ratio, Ferrari having admitted that a F.1 car costs him 30,000 dollars, and a sports/racing car costing as much if not more. Bond finishes up by reminding us that, for that matter. Briggs Cunningham must have spent close on 5-million dollars trying to win at Le Mans with a team effort, and that was over ten years ago. “The point is,” he concludes, “that it seems unfair to criticise Ford for beating the old man of Maranello just because they could afford to do it.”

Having never, as far as I can recollect, driven a Ferrari, but having had very good service from bread-and-best-butter Fords, why should I take side’s? Incidentally, Road & Track has come a long way since it first appeared 18 years ago. Then they paid English writers in jazzy American sweat shirts they were so short of cash. Recently they had been congratulating themselves and their advertisers on mutual growth, circulation having apparently tripled since 1954, necessitating an increase in the number of employees from eight to 46. Noting the manner in which our own support of the vintage movement. for instance, has assisted vendors of such cars and marvelling at the inflated price; now asked for them, I Sometimes wonder which gets the better return, the magazine whose advertisers support it or the advertisers whose growth is fostered by the magazine?