The story that began with a walk down a bare basement hallway in the Product Design Center at Ford Motor Company will end at this weekend’s Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
The 10-hour IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race brings a close to the factory-backed Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT program. Globally, Ford CGR won 19 races with partners Multimatic and Roush Yates Engines. During the four years of the IMSA and FIA WEC program, 15 elite racing drivers competed for the four-car team tasked with bringing the road and race car campaigned by Ford to the checkered flag first.
Carrying the banner for the final time will be Joey Hand, Dirk Müller and Sébastien Bourdais in the No. 66 Ford GT, and Richard Westbrook, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon in the No. 67 Ford GT. Those lineups remained essentially unchanged through the years, except when Bourdais missed a Le Mans 24 after crashing during qualifying for the Indy 500 in 2017. He rejoined the lineup at Petit Le Mans that year.
“What we have to talk about is that there is really a feeling of being at home on this team, and being honored to be part of the Ford CGR family,” Müller said. “It’s been a great four years and I’m sad that it’s ending. Joey and I are super close and are mates, which is probably not really unique in this level of racing, but I remember my very first test in 2015 and as soon as I touched ground and got out of the rental car, I felt like I’d been with the team forever. That’s a unique feeling, what you normally probably don’t get. There are no big egos. Everyone is as important as the next person. Everyone is working hand in hand for that one goal, winning races.
“Obviously Chip likes winners and there’s a benefit of a lot of trophies in the workshop, and a few have been added from us, so they can see how successful that sense of team was with Ford CGR and Ford Performance and Multimatic. Nobody’s selfish. Everybody thinks about the program and not about himself. Just being part of the program is a proud moment.”
The drivers of the No. 66 Ford GT earned more poles than any other (9), including both IMSA and FIA WEC programs. The No. 67 team earned the most wins (8). The most successful track for the Ford GT was Road America, where Ford CGR earned three consecutive wins and three poles. In FIA WEC competition, Ford GT was most successful in Shanghai (two poles, two wins). The team’s best finish at Petit was a second-place finish in 2016 for the No. 66 car.
“(Petit) is a massive race in itself and we’re working really hard to finish the year and finish the program strong,” Briscoe said. “It’s one of my favorite circuits and events on the calendar and I’m looking forward to it.”
While Müller, Hand and Bourdais will be remembered as the drivers who captured the GTE Pro class win at the Le Mans 24 exactly 50 years (to the day) the team handpicked by Ford did it first, Briscoe and Westbrook will be remembered as the first to win in this incarnation of the Ford GT. Their win at Laguna Seca in May 2016 sent the team to Le Mans with momentum that carried them to the top step of the podium there.
“A good part of the program has just been being part of the program from Day 1 until the end,” Briscoe said. “It’s such a historic program with such heavy involvement with everyone at Ford. It’s just been so much fun rewriting history and comparing what we were doing to the 1960s. It’s been a really special time of our racing careers. I’ve been proud of all of us having a leading role of what we did the last four years.”