The Ford Chip Ganassi Team made its race debut in the FIA World Endurance Championship on Sunday. The #67 Ford GT of Andy Priaulx, Marino Franchitti and Harry Tincknell took fourth place in the GTE Pro class, closely followed by the #66 Ford GT of Stefan Mücke, Billy Johnson and Olivier Pla in fifth position.
“Considering it was the first race with a new car and a new team we had a clean run,” said Raj Nair, executive vice president and chief technical officer, Global Ford Product Development. “We’re very happy that the car ran well mechanically. We had a couple of issues; we were caught out on safety car timing and we lost radio with Olivier (Pla) towards the end of the race, which had an impact on strategy. This is a great start though and a good stepping stone to the Le Mans 24 Hours.”
Both Ford GTs got away well at the start of the six-hour race with Stefan Mücke holding onto third position in the #66 car with Andy Priaulx close behind in #67.
“I really enjoyed the start,” said Mücke. “It’s always exciting to start the first race of a new season and to take the start in the Ford GT was a special moment. We have found a good balance and as the Ford is easy on its tyres we were able to double stint and this really helps with our strategy.”
Priaulx got a tap from behind halfway around the opening lap but kept his focus and quickly settled into his race rhythm.
“The car ran faultlessly and I was able to get into a good rhythm straight away,” said Priaulx. “Our first pit stop, which was the first racing stop for the team, was spot on. I know we are a new team but it feels like we have been doing this for a while. We can drive the Ford GT with confidence and combined with our strategy this makes us strong.”
Billy Johnson and Marino Franchitti took over the #66 and #67 Ford GTs respectively for the middle section of the race. Franchitti had a ‘moment’ when he was hit by an LMP1 car but he quickly recovered.
For the final two hours, the Ford GTs were handed over to Harry Tincknell and Olivier Pla who both delivered their usual rapid run.
“That’s the most laps I have driven in the Ford GT!” said Tincknell. “I really enjoyed it and I’m happy with fourth, although a podium would have been nice. I didn’t really focus on position though, I just drove as fast as I could and made sure I looked after my tyres. This was also my first ever world-class GT race so I had to quickly learn how to deal with the prototypes flying past me. We learned a lot this weekend and that is what we came here to do so thanks to the team who all worked incredibly hard.”
The next race for the WEC Ford GTs is the 6 Hours of Spa, which takes place on May 7.