Twelve drivers. Four cars. One team. It’s become a common refrain for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing and remains at the core of the effort as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and FIA World Endurance Championship teams unite this month for one goal – to win at the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Ford’s history with the most prestigious sports car race in North America stretches back to the birth of the event in its current 24-hour format.
In 1966, drivers Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby drove a Ford GT40 MkII to the win the first time the race featured 24-hour racing. They went on to win the 12 Hours of Sebring that year before Miles finished second at the Le Mans 24 Hours with co-driver Denny Hulme, where Ford went down in history for using single-minded determination to win at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
This year, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing fields four cars of three drivers each, each one as impressive as the last. INDYCAR aces Scott Dixon (NZ) and Tony Kanaan (Brazil), who won the event with Ford in prototype in 2015, join the fulltime lineups of the #67 (Ryan Briscoe/Aus and Richard Westbrook/UK) and #69 (Andy Priaulx/UK and Harry Tincknell/UK) Ford GTs.
Sébastien Bourdais (France) returns in the #66 Ford GT with drivers Joey Hand (US) and Dirk Müller (Ger), with whom he won the GTE Pro class title at Le Mans last year. Billy Johnson (US), who helped develop the production Ford GT and won the IMSA Grand Sport championship last year in a Shelby GT350R-C, returns in the #68 Ford GT.
While Kanaan makes his first race start in a Ford GT, fulltime driver Tincknell is a Rolex 24 At Daytona rookie – although certainly not a newcomer to sports car racing.
That’s not to mention the returning fulltime drivers of the cars in both series, all of whom battled for wins at every race last season. In 2016, the Ford GT program won six races and started from the front of the grid eight times, with victories coming at Laguna Seca, Watkins Glen, Mosport, Le Mans, Fuji and Shanghai.
Leading the team is Chip Ganassi, the only team owner in history to win the Le Mans 24 Hours, Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500, Brickyard 400, Rolex 24 At Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring.
Ganassi says the Ford GT team has unfinished business in Daytona after last year’s disappointing start.
“Overall, when you look back at 2016, I would say ‘mission accomplished’ when it came to debuting this program with Ford,” Ganassi said. “We won races, competed for the championship in both IMSA and WEC and of course won in Le Mans. Like any new program, you’re going to have some growing pains as we did here in Daytona but we have worked through all of those and finished 2016 strong. This year is a totally different scenario. Not only do we have four cars instead of two, we also have a 24-hour win under our belts and a season’s worth of experiences with this car. I can’t wait to see what this year’s race brings.”
Ford Chip Ganassi Racing will again campaign four Ford GTs full time for its second year of competition – two in the North American IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, and two in the global FIA World Endurance Championship.
“We’re ready to get this second season started with Ford GT,” said Dave Pericak, global director, Ford Performance. “We walked away from last year happy with what we were able to accomplish, but that doesn’t mean the job’s done. The team did a great job preparing in the very short off-season and we believe we’re prepared to compete for championships in 2017.”