Ford’s new factory GT program will see heavy involvement from Multimatic, with the Canadian-based firm not only building and developing the all-new Ford GT, but also heading up operations of Chip Ganassi Racing’s program in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
At the center of the global effort is George Howard-Chappell, with the former Prodrive team principal returning to the sports car racing scene as the Ford GT program manager and operations director in the FIA WEC.
“What the Ford GT gives you in its base form as a road car is a fantastic starting point for a race car,” Howard-Chappell told Sportscar365 during the program’s launch last weekend at Le Mans.
“It hasn’t been born in the last three weeks. There’s been a lot of work going forward.
“As Raj [Nair, Group VP of Product Development] said, from the very beginning there was some thinking on whether this could be a race car a well a road car.”
Howard-Chappell, who has been at Multimatic from the project’s inception nearly two years ago, has overseen the development of the car, which has been built to the new-for-2016 GTE regulations.
With the production Ford GT having been designed with racing in mind, it’s offered an ideal platform for the new factory racer, complete with the same 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 that’s been proven in TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Prototype competition.
“We’ve taken the road car, which is a fantastic road car to build a race car from and have taken the draft 2016 regulations and produced a racing car,” Howard-Chappell said.
“This is the first development car. It will evolve from here towards being homologated and approved.
“Although we have a great deal of really experienced people in the program, we don’t have a current GTE car, so it’s important to start early and get experience with the car.”
Howard-Chappell confirmed the car has already been out testing at multiple venues, with Scott Pruett having been among the drivers providing initial feedback in the early development phase.
The Ford GT is the first 2016-spec GTE car to break cover, and with the regulations not yet 100 percent finalized, Howard-Chappell said further revisions are possible in the coming months.
“We’ve built our test and development car,” he said. “That’s what you saw [at the launch]. We’re having to work with what is a set of draft regs, as the other manufacturers are.
“We’re probably a bit more public than everybody else, but everybody’s in the same boat. It’s pretty close to getting fixed.”
On the operations side, Multimatic will also be tasked with assembling Ganassi’s European-based crew for its FIA WEC effort.
With a presence in the UK, largely with ex-Lola personnel, Howard-Chappell said Multimatic is well equipped for the program.
“I think on the surface you’d say that would be complicated,” he said. “But Multimatic is a multi-national company.
“Chip has a great race team and he knows how to operate with partners. I think so far it’s been fairly seamless.”
For Howard-Chappell, who led Prodrive’s race-winning Ferrari and Aston Martin GT programs, the opportunity to return to the production-based ranks with a factory effort was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
“I’ve had a couple of years out,” he said. “Obviously I’ve known for some time this was coming but it was not the easiest to be standing on the sidelines.
“It’s not easy this year either. So I’m looking forward to coming back and being in the thick of it.
“I’ve run teams that have won [Le Mans] with Ferrari and Aston Martin. It’s great to go racing against those guys. We also have a longstanding rivalry with Corvette. I’m really looking forward to it.”