As Ford Chip Ganassi Racing prepares for its first four-car outing as a sports car entity, the team is drawing on a wealth of experience and a wealth of quality people from the entire Ganassi organization in advance of this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The transitional race, which opens the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, will see Ganassi close its Daytona Prototype era, an era that dates to 2004, as it begins its new Ford GT program in tandem with Multimatic across both IMSA and the FIA World Endurance Championship.
It’s a natural evolution and with upwards of four to perhaps eight Ganassi cars running at any particular weekend in 2016, whether that be in sports cars, IndyCar, NASCAR or even Red Bull Global Rallycross, having four total cars at the first race of the year will provide a good test and a good baseline for the remainder of the season.
As Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull explained, having past knowledge in four-car efforts (IndyCar effort has been four cars most of 2011 through 2015) and the partnerships established is what’s made this vast year of programs possible.
“It’s a challenge. But I think we have great people that work for us,” Hull told Sportscar365. “We have put some special Chip Ganassi people on this project.
“There’s the full complement of regular IMSA employees we could put onto it. Then Multimatic gave us a great car, and great support. Ford themselves are very into the vehicle dynamics side of a supercar.
“Certainly we’ve moved from low hurdles to high hurdles quickly, rather than the other way around. But it’s a lot of fun.”
The talent shifting within the Ganassi organization will see members of the team’s IndyCar and NASCAR programs working at Daytona for the Rolex 24.
That’s not a new concept, but seeing individuals like Brad Goldberg – a past championship-winning engineer with Ganassi in sports cars who’s most recently served as Charlie Kimball’s race engineer in IndyCar – transition back into the sports car program gives the team depth and strength from other forms of racing that they can use to their advantage with setups and preparation.
Goldberg will serve as race engineer for the No. 67 Ford GT, driven by Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook.
“He started out in the GRAND-AM days as a support engineer, then a full engineer. So he has it in his background,” Hull said.
“He has been at Daytona on the prototype program, he helped (Chris) Simmons on the 02 car, and they won together.
“The biggest thing that people like Brad bring is that he understands the engineering resource Chip Ganassi Racing has. He can go to a group of damper people in the building and say, ‘this is the direction we’ve done.'”
The Ganassi organization has shown an adept ability to work with different manufacturers concurrently. In sports cars and GRC, they work with Ford, while running Chevrolets in IndyCar and NASCAR.
It’s the single team spirit that drives the team forward, and allows the “blue oval” and “bowtie” programs to exist under one roof.
“What’s in common is that all of us at Chip Ganassi Racing, whether Ford or Chevrolet, we try to get the most out of the day together. That’s a big deal, truly,” Hull said.
“We’re very unselfish in what we give. We don’t look at it as competitors. We’re working with partners. Everyone that works within that room draws from that experience.”
The accolades that the Ganassi DP program has achieved is nothing short of spectacular.
Since the program came online in 2004, they won seven GRAND-AM Rolex Series championships (2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013) and scored 46 race wins.
Meanwhile at the Rolex 24 itself, starting with its first win in 2006, the team has six wins (2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2013, 2015), and that run of three straight from 2006 through 2008 made Ganassi the first and thus far only owner to win three straight overall wins at the race.
Lineups for Ganassi’s DP sendoff were confirmed in late December, with the overall winners Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray back in the team’s No. 02 Riley-Ford. Four team newcomers, Lance Stroll, Alexander Wurz, Andy Priaulx and Brendon Hartley, make up the No. 01 Riley-Ford.
Full-season drivers Joey Hand and Dirk Muller (No. 66 car) and Westbrook and Briscoe (No. 67 car) are joined by Sebastien Bourdais and Stefan Muecke respectively for the Rolex 24 in the pair of Ford GTs.