The champagne has long since stopped flowing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but there was still one thing left to do for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing. On Tuesday, they checked that box.
Drivers Joey Hand, Dirk Müller, Sébastien Bourdais and team owner Chip Ganassi joined Ford Performance executives to present the winners’ trophy to Ford Motor Company employees on Tuesday at Ford’s Product Development Center, while third-place finishers Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook joined them for a formal presentation with Ford executives, question-and-answer sessions and autograph signing near Ford’s global world headquarters.
“It’s always a great day when you can bring a celebration like our Le Mans victory back to Ford employees and be able to present this trophy to them,” said Dave Pericak, global director, Ford Performance.
“This victory for was them. So many of our employees worked very hard to help us get ready to race at Le Mans, and we couldn’t have done it without them.
“And all of our employees, here and globally, have been behind us from the start in this effort, and we wanted to let them know how much their support meant to us.”
With his 175th victory, Ganassi becomes the only owner in history to win the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500, Brickyard 400, Rolex 24 At Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring and Le Mans 24 Hours.
Ganassi attended with team partner Rob Kauffman, Chip Ganassi Racing President Steve Lauletta, Managing Director Mike Hull, IMSA sports car team principal Mike O’Gara and WEC team principal George Howard-Chappell. Multimatic Vice President Larry Holt and Doug Yates, CEO of Roush Yates Engines, also were on hand for the celebration.
“The new Ford GT is a spectacular car and we feel honored to be the ones to race it and represent Ford,” Ganassi said. “In just two-and-a-half years this Ford Performance Chip Ganassi Racing program has won the 12 Hours of Sebring, the Rolex 24 At Daytona, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans – among others.
“You can probably call that the sports car triple crown – the three biggest sports car races in the world and Ford and Chip Ganassi Racing have made an indelible mark on all of them. I couldn’t be more proud.”
First unveiled to the media at Le Mans last year, the Ford GT’s Le Mans victory came 395 days after the car turned a wheel for the first time on May 20, 2015, at Calabogie Motorsports Park in Canada.
The new Ford GT began as a secret project that only a few Ford employees knew about, but has become a company-wide point of pride.
“I think what’s important with any program you’re on, but especially this one, is you have to look back at how it started,” Hand said. “This race car started with all the employees at Ford and Ford Performance, in the special basement studio.
“Having a car that could race to win Le Mans and then to do it, on the day of the anniversary, is nothing short of amazing.
“It’s the people at Ford, from the Ford family down, to Multimatic and Chip Ganassi Racing that make it as special as it is. We all feel like we’re a family on this program. I think everyone can be really proud, on all levels of this program, about what we did.”
In all, four Ford GTs raced at Le Mans – two that campaign full-time in the global FIA World Endurance Championship, based in the UK, and two that compete in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in North America.
They raced at Le Mans with the numbers 66, 67, 68, 69, in homage to the four years Ford won the storied race in a row with the Ford GT40.
The morning of the visit, Westbrook and Briscoe presented a pair of boots and gloves they were wearing at Laguna Seca, when they earned the first win for the new Ford GT, to The Henry Ford museum.
“(The win at Laguna Seca) was a great stepping stone to the success we were able to continue with going to Le Mans and beyond,” Briscoe said. “I think it was just a really important win for everyone involved, especially on the race team.
“Just to give us the confidence that we can get the job done and yes, we can do this and let’s go to Le Mans and do it again. We’d had a few issues in the races before, so it was just great to have an trouble-free weekend and everything was really reliable, performance was strong.
“It was the perfect way to send off to Le Mans.”
Both the No. 66 Ford GT (the car that won at Le Mans) and the No. 67 (the p3 finisher) were on display for employees to see.
“It’s amazing (to see the support),” Westbrook said. “At Le Mans Dave (Pericak) and Raj (Nair) were always reminding us about how popular this program is and how much support for this program there is in Dearborn, and that was a big comfort racing at Le Mans, knowing that we’re racing for a big team, not just our guys at the track, but all of those people supporting us back at Ford World Headquarters in Michigan and around the world.
“To come see them is really special. It reminds us of why we’re racing. We’re not just racing for ourselves, but for a whole workforce. A huge amount of people who have put a lot of work into this program. It’s really special.”