Ford’s staged finish of the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1966 was one of the most controversial and mysterious chapters in the GTs saga. Although they dominated the race with not one but three of their GT40s leading with 16 laps ahead of the closest competitor, the final outcome was convoluted. Ken Miles and Denis Hulme in their blue #1 GT40 were leading the race until they received the order to slow down and let the other two GT40s catch up for a staged photo finish with all three crossing the finish line only car lengths apart. Miles was announced the winner and about to approach the podium when the officials corrected their statement and confirmed, he was only second. The black #2 GT driven by Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon actually won as they had covered the most distance within the 24 hours, after being placed 40 yards behind Miles at the start. Despite Ford winning the race regardless, it was a slight loss for the Americans as they could have achieved a triple triumph with Miles, as his blue GT had previously won Daytona and Sebring – something even Ferrari never managed to do. Rumor has it, it was the Italian rivals who actually pointed out the mistake in the first place.
Initially, the GT40 was not only built for racing purposes but also as an act of revenge targeting Enzo Ferrari. In 1963, Henry Ford II intended to combine forces with Ferrari before the Italian sports car manufacturer abruptly ended all negotiations at the last minute. Furious about this decision, Ford decided to get its revenge by beating the long term winner at Le Mans – which they managed to repeat the following three years.
In the end it didn’t really matter who took the victory amongst the drivers as long as the race was a win for Ford over Ferrari.
24 Hours Le Mans, France / 18-19 June 1966
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