With all four Ford GTs united for the first time since the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans, The Blue Oval was betting big on a result in Daytona.
After Ford qualified 1-2-3 for the 55th running of the Rolex 24, the No.66 Ford GT of Joey Hand, Dirk Müller and Sébastien Bourdais hopped out to an early lead, where it would remain for most of the race even through the treacherous, driving rain that arrived in the middle of the night.
“The win made me very uncomfortable to watch. And sweaty,” said Hand, who with Bourdais watched Müller take the checkered flag with the No. 66 just as they did at Le Mans. “I told my family at home before I left that I had a good feeling about this race. I really felt like we could win. We worked really well together. That’s what makes a difference. The three of us together, you may not think a German dude, a French guy who has a bunch of IndyCar championships and a guy from California would work together the best, but we do really work well together.”
GTLM treated us to a thrilling finish with the top 7 cars finishing within 8 seconds of one another, Ford almost had another car on the podium with the No.69 GT of Andy Priaulx, Harry Tincknell and Tony Kanaan missing the podium by a scant 2 seconds.
“It’s an incredible event,” Tincknell said. “You race hard from the start but it’s all about the last hour and keeping the car in one piece for that final flat out run to the flag. Overall, though, what a mega experience. The Americans know how to entertain; bunching the cars up and going racing in this way is incredible. There was some great racing going on and I really want to come back next year.”
Chip Ganassi Racing earned its seventh Rolex 24 title, but the team’s first in the GT ranks. The win was Ford’s 19th at the twice around the clock endurance classic, including the first ever 24 Hour race at Daytona way back in 1966.
“This is a great win for our GT program,” said Raj Nair, executive vice president of Global Product Development and chief technical officer, Ford Motor Company. “It’s a credit to everyone involved, from our Ford team to Ganassi, Roush Yates, Multimatic and Michelin. Conditions were very difficult throughout much of the race, but that winning car had no issues at all against some of the best competition in the sport. There’s a lot to be proud of with this win and we hope it’s the start of a great season for our teams.”
The two IMSA based cars will next head the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled By Fresh From Florida in March, while the two UK based cars will head back to Europe in preparation for the 2017 WEC season.