Ford Performance global director Dave Pericak has fought back on allegations that the American manufacturer had been controlling the performance of its Ford GTs in the run up to this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The factory squad has been in the center of a Balance of Performance controversy, largely stemming from the car’s dominant run at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where Ford GTs placed first, third and fourth in the GTE-Pro class.
“I think people love to use the term ‘sandbagging’,” Pericak told Sportscar365 during last weekend’s FIA World Endurance Championship race at Nürburgring.
“I’ve always said and I would hope that I can get backup from the sanctioning body on this, that we came into this with a brand spanking-new car. This car has been in development as not a known car.
“If you look at who we were racing against, they were already established cars.
“We were discovering and fixing and maturing along the way, and so we were sharing everything we were doing, full disclosure, with IMSA and the FIA.
“All I can tell you is that we were all in, we gave them full transparency to what we were doing, and I think that people are confusing an acceleration of a race program with this term called sandbagging.
“Yes our program has been accelerating in its maturity and if somebody is confusing that with sandbagging, I don’t know what to say.”
The Ford Chip Ganassi Racing-entered cars were unable to match the pace of the Ferrari 488 GTEs in the opening two WEC rounds, with the No. 67 Ford GT of Marino Franchitti, Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell scoring its first podium at Spa, largely due to attrition.
One race later at Le Mans, the turbocharged Fords, as well as the Risi Competizione Ferrari, were the class of the field, despite an unprecendented post-qualifying BoP change.
“All I know is this: The BoP process, even up to about 12 hours before the Le Mans race, we received another BoP,” Pericak said.
“We received BoP after Le Mans after we won in the IMSA series, and yet we won the week after that.
“All I can say is, either the BoP process isn’t doing what it’s supposed to be doing, or we’re just maturing as a race team and we’re getting better and better at the execution part of racing.
“I think a lot of people did not expect the maturity [in the first year].”
The results from Le Mans has prompted the FIA and ACO to evaluate the possibility of locking in next year’s GTE-Pro BoP ahead of the start of the 2017 season, in an effort to prevent early season sandbagging from teams.
ACO Sporting Director Vincent Beaumesnil did not specifically call out Ford for sandbagging but admitted most manufacturers, in general, don’t show their full potential in the early season races.
“The major difficulty is that Le Mans is the third race of the year [in WEC] and I think anybody would be stupid if they don’t realize that before Le Mans, people maybe don’t show everything,” Beaumesnil told Sportscar365.
“So you have to evaluate the cars with people who don’t really show what their cars [are capable of].”
Pericak, meanwhile, admitted he wasn’t a fan of BoP but said he fully respects the FIA, ACO and IMSA’s efforts to balance the field.
“The guy who’s happy with BoP is the guy who won the race,” Pericak said. “I think it’s one of these things that is going to constantly be an evolution, and a challenge.
“I think the series are doing their best to try and have a very objective approach to BoP, and we’re doing our part to input to that and try to make it as objective as we can.
“My fear on BoP is always that it will continue to be: I don’t want to do more racing off the track than on the track.
“I think that we’re on the verge of potentially being almost in that situation, where we’re doing a whole lot of racing in the conference room and that’s just not what racing is about.
“I wouldn’t want the BoP job personally, but we’ll continue to work with the sanctioning bodies and try to make it as good as we can.”