Monday, August 7, 2023

LE MANS 100C: A Belated Ford GT Farewell

The oft, overlooked No. 4 Holman & Moody 1966 Ford GT40 Mk II of Mark Donohue and Paul Hawkins on display at the IMS Museum in 2012. (The Tomaso Collection)


Nah, No Have you Driven a Ford lately Jokes Here!


Presumably Y’all know that earlier this summer we celebrated the Centenary running of le 24 Heurs du Mans. And in typical glacial fashion Here upon thoust rocky shores of Nofendersville. Another No Fenders “Gem” has been waylaid in the rotting seaweed, Ooh, What’s that smell!


Like countless Auto Manufacturers, the Ford Motor company is intertwined in the fabled races illustrious History. With Ford being involved in many facets of the Circuit’s and Motor Racing lore.


And whilst I’d Arse-sume Y’all would be quick to name that the iconic Ford GT40 won Le Mans four consecutive years in-a-row between 1966-69. I’d argue that Ford and it’s venerable Ford GT40 has actually scored five victories including the Mirage GR8’s 1975 triumph! But that’s a topic for another day…


As I suppose this story partially came back upon Ye Memory screen due to the continuous noise being made over Matt Damon and Company’s filming of their upcoming Formula 1 movie. With filming occurring during this year’s British Grand Prix weekend.


For which I previously scribbled about Damon’s excellent performance as ‘Ol Shel’, aka Carroll Shelby in the brilliant 2019 Ford v Ferrari film. For which I totally thought Christian Bale should have won the Oscar for Best Actor that year!


As 1966 was the year that the FoMoCo’ Brass infamously pulled their staged 1-2-3 Photo Finish Farce that cruelly robbed Ken Miles from winning All three major Endurance races that year, i.e.; Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans.


While Dan Gurney made history by not only winning the 1967 event with A.J. foyt. But for being the instigator of the now de riggour Champagne Spraying celebration. Wich Gurney impromptly “Uncorked” upon the podium.


Or for Mwah, what is the greatest Le Mans race ever, albeit I’m quite biased being a Died in the Wool Ford Racing and Shelbyphile! When Jacky Ixkx refused to participate in the then mandatory Le Mans start of drivers sprinting across track to their awaiting cars.


With Ickx simply waiting until everyone had gone, sauntering across track to His waiting Ford GT40. Climbing in, calmly buckling His safety belts and then winning His first of eventual six Le Mans triumphs by some 100 yards over the second place Porsche in 1969!


In 2002 at Detroit’s North American International  Auto show, Ford stunned us by debuting it’s modern era GT40 concept car, which ultimately became known as the ford GT. Honouring it’s forthcoming 100th anniversary.


And then upon celebrating it’s own Centenary in 2003, ford unveiled three pre-production Ford GT’s. Hopefully in the same base colours as those three nasty 1966 GT40 Mk II’s, i.e.; black, light blue and gold?


And with the first generation Ford GT going into production in late-2004, several private entities were quick to create their racing versions of the Ford GT. Although reporetedly Ford didn’t want the Ford GT raced and supposedly didn’t back any racing versions of the iconic Supercar.


As it’s worth noting that the model years 2005-06 Ford GT came stock with a 5.4-liter Supercharged V-8, unlike it’s unofficial racing brethren…


As the first example of these Ford GT racing derivatives I came across was a 2005 ford GT was converted into a Ford GT300 by TOM’s for the DHG Racing Team for competing in the 2006-07 Japanese Super GT series.


Interestingly, this car was modified to be powered by an 1990’s era Ford Zetec-R 3.5-litre normally aspirated V-8 lump’. With the same engine propelling Michael Schumacher and Benetton to their first Formula 1 World Championship in 1994!


Geneva, Switzerland based Matech Concepts, formed in 2006, struck an agreement with Ford Racing to develop the Ford GT for Sports Car racing with GT1 and GT3-spec variants. Along with becoming the official European Distributor of parts for the Ford Racing Mustang FR500


In Germany, Matech built their first  Ford GT variant, the GT-3 racecar for the 2007 FIA GT3 European Championship. Which interestingly, Matech denotes as being powered by a “Cammer” Ford 5.0-liter normally aspirated V-8 motor.


 Matech won the title the following year! And then defending their title in ’09, before graduating to the top flight GT1 championship.


Meanwhile, Doran Enterprises of Ohio, founded by longtime successful IMSA Championship winner Kevin Doran. Built it’s version known as the ford GT-R Mk VII to ACO GT-2 specifications. Enabling it to compete in racing Stateside and abroad, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans.


As a total of six Doran Ford GT-R’s were reportedly built. With motivating power coming from a Roush Yeates 5.0-liter normally aspirated V-8 lump’ mated to a Emco six-speed transmission.


As Atlanta based Robertson Racing took initial delivery of the Doran Ford GT-R in 2008. Before debuting at that year’s 12 Hours of Sebring, finishing 10th overall. While a second Doran GT-R was raced by Black Swan Racing under the Falken Tires banner sporadically, both contesting the American Le Mans Series GT2 category…


Matech Competition entered two of it’s Ford GT1 racecars for the 2010 GT1 World  championship. Along with also contesting that year’s 24 Heurs du Mans. Being the first time a Ford GT derived racecar had pounded round Circuit de la Sarthe since the Mirage M12 Cosworth DFL entry of 1982…


Le Mans saw it’s No. 60 Ford GT entry, with Thomas Mutsch, Romain Grosjean and Jonathan Hirxchi retiring on lap-171 due to engine failure.


And yes, that’s the same Romain Grosjean who currently races for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar…


While it’s sister No. 61 entry retired on lap-161 due to an engine fire, and was driven by the All Femme fatale trio I’ve previously scribbled here upon No Fenders about a long time ago, when first learning about the then unknown Matech Ford GT1’s.


While the third Ford GT1 was entered by the Marc VDS Racing Team, with it’s No. 70 driven by the Eric De Donker, Bas Leinders and Markus Palttala retiring from a lap-26 Accident.