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The Legend Lives on: Ford’s GT40 in the 24 Hours Of Le Mans

Submitted by on September 29, 2021

Winning Ford GT40P/1041 of Philip Walker, Miles Griffiths and Gordon Sheddon captured at the Spa Six Hours 2019 shortly after sunset

In our third and final instalment looking back at Ford’s legendary GT40, we conclude our story with the striking race at Le Mans and an overview of the successes of this still very potent V8-racer.

By the end of May 1966, Ford had an engine that was consistently producing 485 hp at 6,400 rpm and lasted the desired 48 hours. In they built twelve engines and delivered them to Shelby, Holman & Moody and Alan Mann Racing.

In addition to engine problems, the GT40 had also faced braking problems mainly due to the higher weight and speed of the Mk. II. Phil Remington of Shelby America brought the solution, allowing the team to change calipers quickly.

For the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966, Ford entered eight factory GT40s. Although Ken Miles drove his GT40 to a second place in qualifying, the start was anything but satisfactory as the door struck his helmet. Due to this Miles had to return to the pits quickly.

The lead changed constantly between Ford and Ferrari through to midnight, when the Ferraris were forced to confront some mechanical difficulties (not that Ford escaped entirely unscathed). At around that point, had claimed the complete top three, plus fifth and eighth place.

In the late stages of the race, Ford faced somewhat of a luxurious problem. Three of their GT40s occupied the top three, which left them to ponder which of the three cars should cross the line first. In the end, all three cars finished in a tie with permission of the ACO: Shelby American with Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon in the nr. 2 GT40 and Ken Miles and Denny Hulme for Shelby American in the nr. 1 GT40. Third spot went to the Holman & Moody GT40 of Ronnie Bucknum and Dick Hutcherson.

After quite a long struggle, Ford had finally managed to develop an endurance racer that could take on and defeat Ferrari.

GT40 Mk.I driven by Baron Otto Reedtz-Thott at a race of the HTGT Dunlop Trophy in Hockenheim earlier this year.

Between 1965 and 1969, 107 Mk.Is were built in Slough. From the upgraded Mk. II, eleven cars were built in 1966 also in Slough. Nowadays the epic GT40 remains a strong competitor in historic racing. In Europe the Goodwood Revival as well as the Spa Six Hours always attract vast fields of GT40s, as well as the Classic Endurance Racing series of Peter Auto.

The GT40 won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969. Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon drove their Shelby-American GT40P to victory in 1966, while Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt scored victory in their Shelby-American GT40 Mk. IV in 1967.

Pedro Rodriguez and Lucien Bianchi won the 1968 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a John Wyer Automotive Engineering GT40P Mk. 1. The final GT40 victory at Le Mans was claimed by Jackie Ickx and Jackie Oliver in 1969 in a John Wyer Automotive Engineering GT40P Mk. 1. Besides their triumphs at Le Mans, Ford also won four FIA titles between 1966 and 1968.

Motor Racing Legends from the UK announced a brand new series dedicated to the Ford GT40 – the Amon Cup. Two races were planned for this with the inaugural event in May 2021 at Donington open to cars in pre-66 specification. The second race of the year will take place at Silverstone. Each race has a 40-minute qualifying session followed by a 80-minute race.

Ford GT40P/1017 raced by Jean-Francois Decaux and entered for the Peter Auto’s Classic Endurance Racing series at the Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or in Dijon 2021.

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