- The Nos. 66, 67, 68 & 69 Ford GTs from Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s factory program collectively finished fourth through seventh in GTE Pro in the 87th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
- Ben Keating, Jerone Bleekemolen and Felipe Fraga took the GTE Am victory, quickly proving the capabilities of the Ford GT as the program’s first customer car.
- This year’s Le Mans marks the end of the 2018-2019 FIA WEC Superseason and was the final race for the No. 66 & 67 GTs after four years.
LE MANS, France, 16 June, 2019 – In its final planned bid at a 24 Hours of Le Mans victory as a factory program, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing unfortunately came up short in the 87th running of the historic race. However, in true “One Ford” style, not only did the four-car squad finish together in the GTE Pro standings in fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh, but Ford’s first GT customer program, Keating Motorsports, captured a maiden victory in GTE Am.
“It’s definitely bittersweet because we would have loved to gone out with a win in the GTE Pro class here at Le Mans,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance Motorsports. “But all four cars finished strongly and our first customer team in Keating Motorsports won its first race in GTE Am so there are a lot of positives to take away. We accomplished a lot with this program in a very short time frame and that’s a credit to the Ford GT being a great race car, but also having great drivers and partners like Chip Ganassi Racing, Multimatic and Roush Yates.”
Finishing fourth was the No. 68 GT of Sébastien Bourdais (FR), Dirk Müller (GER) and Joey Hand (US) who had previously earned Ford’s Le Mans victory in 2016.
“The start wasn’t great for us,” said Le Mans native Bourdais. “We struggled with the car on low tire pressures and got some bad breaks with the Safety Car periods. The timing just didn’t go our way. I don’t think that really would have changed the outcome for us too much, but we managed to close the gap a lot and regain over a second which we were happy about. We were just pushing, pushing and pushing really hard and I think it was just the way the timing played out for us. We were all hoping for a full course caution scenario to play out, but they didn’t call it that way.
“Unfortunately when they went to the Safety Car period instead, that was one of the things that really hurt our chances to fight back. I don’t know if it would have been enough for us to come back and fight for the win, but maybe the podium for sure. I’ve really enjoyed my time in the Ford GT and with this program. The whole team at Ganassi and Ford were great to work with and we had a great group here to race with.”
Harry Tincknell (UK), Jonathan Bomarito (US) and Andy Priaulx (UK) were next in line, finishing fifth in the No. 67 GT.
“We had strong pace in qualifying but I don’t think we saw the true pace of our competitors until the race,” said Priaulx. “We raced hard but we were unlucky with Safety Cars. Harry drove some brilliant stints and we were in and out of the mix throughout the race but the Safety Car separated the class and took away the spectacle. We could have had five or six GTE Pro cars fighting for the win at the end but ultimately I don’t think we had the race pace and that’s disappointing, especially for this team as they have all worked so hard.”
Sixth place went to Ryan Briscoe (AUS), Richard Westbrook (UK) and Scott Dixon (NZ), drivers of the No. 69 entry.
“I think we did a really good job with the race car setup here this weekend,” said Briscoe. “The setup on our Ford GT was great. We were able to double-stint tires, as well as run a really good pace out there. I was happy with the way I drove. I think we had a few little issues during the race, but that’s bound to happen over 24 hours – it’s how you deal with that and keep going. The team and the crew did an amazing job and I’m proud of the effort for sure. We ended up going a lap down there toward the later part of the race. Overall it was a good showing but I think we were just lacking on the BoP (balance of performance). It’s hard to overcome that to really have an opportunity to go for the win.”
Wrapping up the order was the No. 66, featuring Olivier Pla (FR), Stefan Mücke (GER) and Billy Johnson (US).
“It’s a bittersweet result for us,” said Johnson. “It’s sweet because we are at Le Mans and it is always an honor to compete here. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the pace early on and then we were put right back by a Safety Car and then another and another. This put us right down the order but we didn’t give up. The guys worked hard, fought strong and got the car to be faster so that we could work our way back up from 17th to seventh. I can’t say enough about this team. They never quit; they dig in and they work it out.”
Capturing a popular victory for Ford at Le Mans was the No. 85 Wynn’s Ford GT fielded by Keating Motorsports in GTE Am. Ben Keating, Jerone Bleekemolen and Felipe Fraga held onto the lead for over half of the race, dominating the class as Ford’s first customer program with the GT.
“We entered our customer program the same way we entered our factory program,” said Rushbrook. “With the intent to win, and having Ben Keating, Bill Riley and everyone at Keating Motorsports, they came here to win and it’s so great they were able to do it in their first race. This is a testament to the quality of the Ford GT race car, and also the quality of that race team and its drivers that they could prepare the car for this event. We did get them some time in the Ford simulator in North Carolina to get them time to be familiar with the car and the Le Mans course, and it just all came together.”
The 85 team managed the race beautifully, though facing a pair of late setbacks in the form of a nose change and stop & go penalty that allowed their nearest challengers to close the gap significantly. The team had Ford’s CGR crew assist with the aforementioned nose repair in a perfect display of the teamwork that Ford practices in all its motorsports efforts.
The conclusion of today’s race also concludes the 2018-2019 WEC Super Season, completing the current factory racing effort in Europe for the 66 and 67 cars. The No. 68 and 69 will return Stateside to complete the rest of the IMSA season, with the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen at Watkins Glen International up next on July 28-30.