In 1966, Ford took the top three spots at the 24 Hours of LeMans. The impressive win was truly the pinnacle of Ford’s racing efforts, and an achievement they have failed to accomplish since.
However, as one of the world’s largest automakers, the company is not sitting idly by. In fact, it is preparing to launch the new GT by the end of next year (2016). The company expects it to compete with the likes of Lamborghini and Porsche.
1966 Le Mans winning Ford GT
Ford initially unveiled the new GT at the Detroit motor show in January, followed by a March showing in Geneva. Ford spokesperson and performance division chief Dave Pericak has made it clear that what car show attendees saw at both shows was no concept car. It was the car Ford intends to sell next year at a starting price of about £240,000. There will be very few changes made to the vehicle between now and then.
The new GT will be made by Ford’s Canadian partner Multimatic Motorsports. The two have been working together for decades. If all goes as planned, the car will be in production sometime next year and ready for global distribution by the end of 2016. That said, the company is talking about producing hundreds of units rather than thousands.
Power and Performance
Ford is banking on a 3.5-litre, V-6 engine to compete in a crowded field of European experts. The EcoBoost engine is a dual turbocharged power plant capable of 600 bhp. Inside the cabin, the driver will have a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission at his/her disposal to harness all of that raw power. Rounding out the package is a carbon fibre body with some aluminium parts that Autocar claims gives the GT ‘one of the best power-to-weight ratios’ among production cars.
Officials at Ford also guarantee a car that is easier to handle and faster off the line. The company has apparently put a lot of design effort into acceleration, steering, and suspension, without sacrificing quality and safety. That remains to be seen when the final production models begin rolling off the assembly line.
The Overall Picture
It is widely known that Ford has used its racing programme to develop the technologies that eventually become mainstream for street cars. Company officials say the new GT is no exception. They are basing the future of some of the most popular consumer models on how well the GT does at the racetrack. Ford is already saying that what it learns from the GT will be part of the company’s brand-new Performance class, scheduled to be released in 2020. Among the cars in this class will be a new Focus along with a Raptor and Shelby GT.
It will be interesting to see how much of the GT trickles down to the street level Focus and Fiesta models. The Focus RS has already made a giant leap forward for 2015 by featuring a Mustang-like 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine that can go from zero to 60 in under 5 seconds. The Fiesta ST is considerably less robust, but it is one of the most popular cars throughout Europe for average consumers “Used Fiesta ST availability is increasing monthly and should keep new Fiesta ST pricing low” says Jenningsforddirect.co.uk. “If the best elements of the GT can be incorporated into both, Ford should continue to impress in the UK.”
The motorsports world awaits the unveiling of the 2016 GT next year. Will it compete with Lamborghini and Porsche? Only time will tell. We know Ford is hoping for an eventual repeat of 1966. Winning the top three spots at LeMans would certainly be a statement that Ford is back in the high-performance category. If the 2016 GT does not help them reach that goal, here’s hoping they at least make a decent showing of it.