Marino Franchitti, Stefan Mücke, Oliver Pla and Andy Priaulx will spearhead Ford’s return to top-level endurance racing action in 2016. Multiple IndyCar champion team Chip Ganassi Racing will campaign two brand new Ford GT GTE cars in every round of the 2016 World Endurance Championship – 50 years after Ford’s famous 1-2-3 clean sweep at the twice-round-the-clock enduro in 1966.
Ford will also run two cars in the newly renamed WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the US under the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team banner, with all four cars teaming up for an assault on Le Mans in June.
No announcement has been made on which drivers will pair up for the World Endurance Championship, which gets under way at Silverstone in April, but we do know that the cars will carry the numbers 66 and 67, celebrating Ford’s two factory Le Mans victories.
Triple World Touring Car Champion and Goodwood regular Priaulx has been plucked from BMW’s extensive driver lineup along with WeatherTech Championship drivers Dirk Müller and Joey Hand to join Ford’s lineup, while fellow Goodwood racer Franchitti joins after competing at Le Mans five times in both the GT and prototype catagories.
German Mücke has raced in the championship since its inception in 2012 with Aston Martin, finishing as runner up in the series’ debut season and standing on the Le Mans podium twice alongside longtime team-mate Darren Turner.
Perhaps the most surprising inclusion of the four is Olivier Pla, who joins the programme direct from Nissan’s now defunct LMP1 team. Pla, who has eight Le Mans under his belt, was also WEC LMP2 runner-up in 2013 racing a Morgan LMP2 for Oak Racing.
In the states, American Hand and German Müller will team up to pilot the #66 car, while Australian IndyCar racer Ryan Briscoe and former Corvette Le Mans racer and 2014 champion Richard Westbrook race the #67.
Speaking at the launch of the new programme, Ford Performance global director Dave Pericak said Ford were not just racing to make up the numbers.
‘Make no mistake, we are racing to win,’ he said. ‘To compete at this level you need the best car, the best team and the best drivers, and we have selected Stefan, Olivier, Andy and Marino to drive the Ford GT to take on the best in the world.’
Images courtesy of Ford/Drew Gibson