Chip Ganassi Racing has formally confirmed its four-driver, full-season lineup for its two-car Ford GT effort in the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship on Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, site of NASCAR’s Ford Championship Weekend for its three series.
Joey Hand, Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Dirk Mueller will be the four full-season IMSA pilots, all of whom enter from different past roles.
Hand and Müller will co-drive the No. 66 Ford GT, while Briscoe and Westbrook take the reins of the No. 67 Ford GT.
“We can’t say enough about how proud we are to present this group of drivers,” said Raj Nair, Ford Group Vice President, Global Product Development and Chief Technical Officer.
“This goes straight to the heart of everything we do at Ford, and selecting the right drivers for the Ford GT racing program is just as important as building the car. We believe we have the best car, and now we have the best drivers to match.”
Added Ganassi during this morning’s press conference, “When word snuck out we were involved in this program, between me and Mike Hull, we had about 40 drivers contact us.
“I think it goes without saying, at this level of motorsport, all drivers have a lot of talent. A lot of drivers have the tools necessary to take them into a program like this. They have the tools, the will, the talent.
“One of the first things I look for in drivers is if you take the fact they have the talent, and they have the tools necessary… I go to heart. I want to know what kind of heart they have.
“In a program like this, in endurance racing, you want to hand it off like it was handed to you. Want it an unselfish manner. I don’t think we could have picked four better drivers to do that.”
Hand, who is the only continuing driver from the Ganassi Riley-Ford Daytona Prototype program, was a key part of BMW’s GT program for nearly a decade prior to joining Ganassi full-time this season. He and Scott Pruett won their only race at Circuit of The Americas, and finished fourth in this year’s Prototype championship.
Briscoe now has his third separate full-time stint with Ganassi, after also racing for the team in the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2005 and 2014. He also raced the 2013 Indianapolis 500 for Ganassi in a year where he split his season between IndyCar and the American Le Mans Series with Level 5 Motorsports.
For Westbrook, his appointment for Ford marks a return to the GT ranks after several years with the VisitFlorida.com Racing Corvette DP team. He and Michael Valiante were second in Prototype points this year.
Westbrook, like Briscoe, is now a past Corvette GT driver flying the flag of the Blue Oval instead.
Lastly, Mueller and Hand are reunited after the pair were also teammates with BMW Team RLL for several seasons; the two won the ALMS GT title driving together in the then-BMW M3 in 2011.
Mueller did not race in the U.S. full-time in 2015, with his last full-season U.S. appearance having occurred in 2014 co-driving with John Edwards for BMW.
All four drivers were present at the two-day WeatherTech Championship test at Daytona International Speedway this week along with several others, although none could “officially” confirm their appearance due to the impending announcement today.