When did Ford Win Le Mans? It started in 1964 and ended in 1969. Between these dates comes not quite the whole history of Ford at Le Mans, but the only part of it anyone’s likely to want to make a movie about.
The script we know already, or at least we think we do: Henry tries to woo Enzo; Enzo seems flirtatious, receptive even. Henry makes his move, Enzo performs a deft little sidestep, primly announces that he is not that kind of Italian sports car manufacturer and leaves Henry face flat on the floor, picking dust out of his teeth, muttering something about a different kind of interaction, involving his boot and Enzo’s bottom.
Henry leaves, gets the GT40 done and duly uses it to kick Enzo’s ass all the way from Le Mans to Maranello. Ford then duly won the French classic four times on the trot, while Ferrari would have to wait until 2023 for its next taste of victory. Ass kicked. Job done.
When did Ford Win Le Mans?
But as I will be by no means the first to point out, history tends to be written by victors naturally inclined to, if not make stuff up, then certainly put their best foot forward; accentuate the positive; put their own, unique spin on proceedings.
But the real story, while a little less flattering for Ford when it is realised the massively resourced factory teams only won twice in the six years GT40s and their derivatives raced in France, is I think rather more interesting than the wham-bam bare bones outlined about. Not least because it doesn’t start in 1964 nor even with a Ford.
If Ken Miles was the unsung hero among the drivers in the GT40 story before Le Mans’ 66 got made, then to this day the Lola Mk6GT is the equivalent among the cars.
The decision to create the car that became the GT40 was made in 1963 with a view to it being at Le Mans the following year. For a brand-new car from a company with zero experience in building anything like what might be required, it was more of an impossible dream than an ambitious target. The Lola, and its creator, Eric Broadley, saved not only Ford’s face but its own bacon too.
By the summer of 1963 various design studies had made it clear Ford stood zero chance of getting a new car to Le Mans the following year. But in a moment of true Blue Peter worthiness, Broadley provided one he’d made earlier. The Mk6 was a make-or-break car for Lola and just as it looked like breaking it, it made it – just not in a way that could have been imagined at the time.
Did Ken Miles win the 1966 Le Mans?
Officially speaking, Ken Miles did not win the 1966 Le Mans 24 Hours competition. Executives from Ford Motor Company told him and his co-driver, Denny Hulme, to slow down so that their teammates, Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon, could finish second.
Ford did not want two of its vehicles to cross the finish line in close proximity, which would have been a contentious finale. A victory for McLaren and Amon, who had been leading the race for the majority of the day, was something more the business wanted to offer.
The choice upset Miles, and he was never able to win Le Mans. Two months later, he was killed in a testing accident.
The 2019 motion picture “Ford v Ferrari” narrates Miles’s journey to become the Le Mans winner. In addition to being a critical and financial hit, the movie promoted awareness of Miles’s legacy.
Miles is regarded as the moral winner of the 1966 Le Mans 24 Hours race even if he did not technically win the event. He was an exceptional driver and engineer who was crucial to Ford’s victory at Le Mans.
Who really won 1966 Le Mans?
The 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans was officially won by Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon, however Ken Miles and Denny Hulme were the first to cross the finish line. To prevent a contentious finish, Ford management told Miles and Hulme to slow down and let McLaren and Amon finish second.
What years did Ford win at Le Mans?
At Le Mans, Ford triumphed in 1966, 1967, 1968, and 1969.
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The real story behind ‘Ford v Ferrari’
Track-side at Road Atlanta where Ford’s blindingly quick 2019 GT race car was competing in October, I asked Ford performance chief Mark Rushbrook if his company had contributed to the “Ford v Ferrari” movie that’s opening this weekend.
“We had nothing to do with it,” replied the man who oversees Ford racing. “I hope the Ford still wins.”
I’ve seen the movie and Rushbrook can rest assured that the 1966 GT40 still crosses the line first at the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans in France. The movie is not always so historically accurate. Produced by Disney/Fox, it takes broad artistic liberties with the story of Ford’s epic battle with Ferrari in order to create an action-packed, fist-flying, testosterone-fueled Hollywood buddy movie. Good ol’ boy racers Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles (played by Matt Damon and Christian Bale, respectively) win the world’s greatest endurance race in spite of the stuffed suits in Dearborn.
It makes for an entertaining 2½ hours at the theater.
But the real story of Ford’s historic win is just as compelling, even if it can’t be condensed into a 153-minute blockbuster. Ford’s dominance of the 1966 Le Mans under the management of the wise-cracking Shelby not only made racing history — it remade Ford as the performance-car company it is today.
Today the Blue Oval competes across the globe in endurance supercars, NASCAR stock cars, Focus rally cars, even NHRA dragsters. The latest Ford GT is a state-of-the-art carbon-fiber rocket. And Joey Logano took his Team Penske Mustang to last year’s NASCAR title.
So it’s hard to imagine that 60 years ago, Ford didn’t even race.
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