Ford began a new chapter last weekend in Daytona with the competition debut of the Ford GT, one of the most highly anticipated new factory programs to enter top-level sports car racing competition in recent years.
While the maiden run for the pair of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing-run entries was marred with numerous mechanical gremlins, both cars got the finish, in what proved to be a valuable learning exercise for both team and car heading into the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.
Sportscar365 caught up with Ford Performance boss Dave Pericak on the eve of the Rolex 24 for a wide-ranging Q&A, including insight into the Ford GT’s development and the possibility of customer cars in the future.
Was an EcoBoost engine always planned for the Ford GT?
“It’s been EcoBoost from day one. It’s just a testament to the technology we have with EcoBoost, leveraging this platform to take EcoBoost to the next level.
“That’s why we immediately kicked off the Daytona Prototype program with Chip Ganassi, to get [the engine] into the race circuit and start figuring it out what it’s going to take to make it successful.
“We obviously did that with winning [the Rolex 24] last year, the Twelve Hours of Sebring and others.”
Is there anything you’ve learned from testing the race car that’s transitioned into the production car?
“Yes. One of the benefits of doing a race car and road car at the same time… I always say it’s a blessing and a curse.
“It’s a blessing because as you’re out pushing the limits on the track, you’re learning a ton of things that you want to put back in the road car.
“One, you want to make the best road car you can make for your customers. The other one is that now, we have a zero waiver car. I take what I need in the race car and put it into the road car.
“It’s a curse because the team is tasked with doing development of two cars at exactly the same time, in a very shortened cycle plan. We learned a lot from racing this car that has already helped make the road car more capable.
“There’s ton of examples from aerodynamics, engine control. A lot of people ask me what’s the difference between the race car and the road car, and other than some of the homologation things like a fixed wing, the road car is the race car and the race car is the road car.”
What are your thoughts on the Balance of Performance process and working with the FIA and IMSA?
“That’s a loaded question. I like the way we’ve been interfacing with IMSA and the FIA. We have a good relationship and it’s open dialogue and I think it’s very honest, transparant dialogue, which is really good.
“Do I like the BoP process? The answer is no, I don’t. But at the end of the day, I think together we’re learning how to better handle and approach BoP.
“The good thing is both the IMSA and FIA are open to our feedback and input and are willing to make changes as a result.
“I think we’re in a much better place today than a couple of years ago but I think we still have a lot of work to do going forward on making sure it’s balanced.”
Are you concerned about the BoP with normally aspirated cars or other turbo cars, or just in general?
“Anything in general. The turbo cars are definitely even more of a challenge because we all approach doing a turbo, the technology, differently.
“What might benefit one might not have any benefit with another. So it’s almost like trying to match up apples and oranges. That’s why the good dialogue is happening and I think we’re getting to a better place.
Was a full-season WEC effort always planned alongside the IMSA program?
“Absolutely. To make this a global effort, to again leverage the GT for what it’s been meant to do, which is to talk about the Ford brand and our capabilities…
“This had to be a global effort. That was always part of the plan.”
How do you bridge the gap of experience that other teams have heading into Le Mans?
“Number one, we’ve done this before as a company. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to put together the right team and I think has been established within Ford, led by Raj [Nair].
“I think partnering with Multimatic and Chip Ganassi are all the right moves to get that level of experience and close that gap.
“There’s no doubt the competition is pretty stout and they’ve been doing it for a long time. Anybody that thinks they’re going to walk in and stomp on the likes of Ferrari and Porsche… That’s silly.
“But we do believe we have all of the expertise and experience that we need to come right out of the box and be competitive and race them.”
Do you have any plans to offer the Ford GT to customers in the future?
“Definitely not for the first two years while we’re racing. We’ll see what happens after that and see what the demand is.
“You can’t stop someone from buying one and racing it but we’ll see what happens in the future. For now, we’ve been completely focused on the factory effort.”
Does the GT3 platform interest Ford?
“Not really. We will always support customer racing of our products, obviously. But I can tell you, when it comes to the GT, the last thing I want to talk to is a customer who wants to race this car right now. I’m trying to get this one around the track.
“We’ll see what happens in the future. We have to get through this year. We have a lofty goal and we’re focused on that and going to Le Mans.”