Ryan Briscoe’s decade-plus run of landing plum full-season sports car or IndyCar rides continues, having been confirmed formally last week as one of the new Ford GT drivers for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Briscoe, who moved to the U.S. in 2005 and has driven for Ganassi on three prior occasions, now has his third factory opportunity in his career.
The Australian was part of the Team Penske-run Porsche RS Spyder LMP2 program in 2007, with his work there helping to springboard him into one of IndyCar’s most coveted seats with Team Penske in 2008.
Briscoe won three races in 2007, and his sports car career since has included the 2008 Petit Le Mans win in an extra RS Spyder with Helio Castroneves, a six-win season in LMP2 with Level 5 Motorsports in 2013 and most recently his wins at Daytona and Sebring last year with Corvette Racing.
Now though, Briscoe can say he’s driven for both American factory GT Le Mans programs, as he enters in 2016 off his endurance race program with Corvette the last two years.
Conversations for 2016, while Briscoe had the Corvette program but no full-time IndyCar ride in 2015 until substituting the second half for injured James Hinchcliffe, occurred generally throughout the year itself.
“It’s something we’ve been talking about throughout the year. There was no real rush,” Briscoe told Sportscar365.
“I’m not too sure when it all started. But really throughout the season, we have been in talks with Chip (Ganassi) and Mike (Hull).”
Briscoe heads into 2016 with the most team experience of any of the four full-season U.S. drivers at Ganassi.
Joey Hand had his first full-time season with the team in 2015, but Briscoe’s prior stints in 2005, 2013 and 2014 in IndyCar give him an innate knowledge of how the team operates.
“There’s both familiarity and familiality with the team, which is great,” Briscoe said. “It’s an honor to be racing for Chip; he’s one of the best in the business.
“Being on this Ford GT program is just massive. It’s such an honor; what a history for them. There’s a lot of buzz and excitement around it. It’s really cool for me, especially knowing some faces on the team. All told, just an honor to be part of the program.”
Renowned in the IndyCar world as one of the better development drivers in the paddock, Briscoe has already been a key part of the Multimatic-built Ford GT’s early test days in Florida.
“We’ve had a couple tests already, between Sebring, Homestead and Daytona, so this was my third test with the car. It’s getting on really well, development wise,” he said.
“Right now we’re just trying to figure out setups, since it’s a completely new car. There’s still a lot to learn. We’re really starting to dial it in, and get a balance that feels right.
“There’s so many rule changes for next year; there’s more downforce, which everyone has. We’re working with Michelin to get the cars the best they can. It’s such early days, but we’re already racing in six weeks or so, so getting as much track time as you can is key.”
Coming from a similar low seating position in IndyCar seems to translate well to the Ford GT, which is noticeably lower than other GT Le Mans cars on the grid.
“It is really low, yeah. But once you’re in the car, it feels right,” he said.
“I don’t think as far as I’m how as low I’m sitting it’s too surprising; it feels pretty normal to me. The goal of this car is a low center of gravity. Ford’s done a beautiful job.”
As Briscoe heads into the holiday season – he’s now adopted Connecticut as a U.S. home since wife Nicole works as a SportsCenter anchor and they have a young daughter, Finley – he’s in the position of having his next year plans sorted in November for only the second time in the last four years.
Prior to 2013 and 2015, when Briscoe split his time between IndyCar and sports cars, he wasn’t sure what he’d be doing in November.
But now, even though he has the month of May available to him to run the Indianapolis 500 if he wants, the Ford GT is his primary focus.
“Given everything else, it’s great to be settled,” he said. “Yeah, just being a part of a full factory program like this is huge. It means a lot, and I’m super excited about the opportunity.”