Ford GT and Ganassi Racing Perseveres at Daytona Rolex 24
If one wasn’t able to make it to Daytona, Florida, for the Rolex 24, a good part of it was televised and indoors watching TV wasn’t a bad place to be considering even California was experiencing heavy rain and winds that weekend.
The well-known racing adage “there’s no replacement for race conditions” proved true for the two-car Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT team, who debuted the No. 66 and No. 67 at the Rolex 24 At Daytona after extensive preparation and testing.
Both Ford GTs suffered gearbox issues that quickly set them too far behind to catch up. The news was better for the two-car EcoBoost-powered Prototype team until the No. 02 Target/Claritin Riley was sidelined twice with brake problems in the overnight hours. A third brake issue put the No. 02 into the tire wall with just 2 hours, 40 minutes to go with Kyle Larson behind the wheel. Meanwhile, the No. 01 Claritin/Target Riley remained on the lead lap until early Sunday morning until it was sent to the garage for a quick check-up with five hours to go before returning to the track four laps down.
“We certainly had our share of reliability issues, and that is not uncommon in a brand new car’s debut,” said Raj Nair, executive vice president, Global Product Development, and chief technical officer, Ford Motor Company. “As we have said, the first time these two particular cars hit the road was literally at the Roar (Before the Rolex 24) test here a couple weeks ago. Aspects of our total testing program had gone very well, so I think we’re a little surprised at some of the reliability issues we have had. As we get into diagnosing the issues, some of them are very specific to what is going on in a race…coming in for a tire change and the wheel hitting a brake line and breaking it. Running three hours under our caution engine calibration (when the car is under yellow flag), and then finding out that is actually causing a problem. We’re still diagnosing some of the stuff that was happening. Maybe even the aspect of the way the in-car TV cameras were wired, which we obviously don’t run during testing, and that may have impacted some of our power feeds and noise in the system. Those kinds of things you aren’t going to find except in a race environment.
“The good thing about it all, and the thing we are pleased about, is the car is showing some pace, it is showing some opportunity, and overall we are happy that we have a fast car and we need to work on reliability. That’s a lot better than having a slow car that’s reliable, but you don’t know how to get speed out of it. Overall, this is racing and this is what can happen in racing. If we don’t win every race, we are disappointed, but at the same time we know how to fix our issues and we’ll be better the next time we come out.”
The No. 01 Claritin/Target Ford EcoBoost Riley was Ford’s highest finisher, at p5 overall. Hartley took the last stint for the 01 team. The No. 02 crossed the stripe with Dixon behind the wheel at p13 overall (p7 in class), while Müller and the No. 66 Ford GT was p31 (p7 in class). Westbrook brought the No. 67 Ford GT to the checkers at p40 (p9 in class).
“I don’t think anyone should think of this race as a failure,” said Dave Pericak, Global Director, Ford Performance. “It’s not the Cinderella story we were hoping for, but this is racing. I’d rather work the bugs out now, then later. Our team has been doing an amazing job of staying laser-focused during this race, and not getting discouraged. I can’t even believe how hard they were working. We will re-group, we will fix it, and then we will go out at Sebring and show what we can do. That’s what this is all about.
“I think one of the great things is…that at its core…this is a race machine. Our drivers have confirmed it. Our results when we have been on track have confirmed it. Our engineering analysis has confirmed it. These nagging things are frustrating as hell, but at the end of the day, we have an amazing machine and that is a victory in itself. We will get it durable, and then we will race the hell out of it.”
Ryan Briscoe, No. 67 Ford GT: “It was a pretty tough race for us, but it was the first true test for the Ford GT. We showed awesome speed and competitiveness, so I think there are a lot of positives to take from the race. Obviously, we have a list of items to go through post-race, you know, work on our reliability, but for me, driving the car was so much fun. It’s an awesome race car. It was really comfortable to drive and really racy, so from that standpoint, it was really promising and I’m sure the team and Ford and everyone involved will be able to work out the kinks that we got in our first-ever race with the Ford GT.”
Richard Westbrook, No. 67 Ford GT: “It was an amazing start for both the No. 67 and 66 (Ford GTs) and a helluva achievement. To be thrown a 24-hour race as our debut and then to finish with both cars, and to be able to run so competitively at the front as well and for long periods of the night. Obviously there were a few issues during the race with both cars, but that’s to be expected. Everything’s new and it’s only going to be better.”
Stefan Mücke, No. 67 Ford GT: “It was an interesting weekend for us. I really enjoyed it because I got a lot of laps in the car, the most laps I’ve ever done in that car. We learned a lot of things. We have to see the positives out of it. We had a couple of little issues which are easy to fix, so honestly I’m looking forward to the coming races (in the FIA World Endurance Championship). The car has the pace. It’s great to drive. It’s consistent to drive, and the little issues we have we can sort out quite quickly for sure. We want to win the next race.”
Joey Hand, No. 66 Ford GT: “For me, it was a pretty awesome day. I got to take the first start in this Ford GT. I got to lead the first laps with the Ford GT. The car drove well. We had a couple of little problems that set us back a few laps, but ultimately, the car was good and quick and had a good balance. I think what we take away from this is we have a good race car, we have a good starting point, we finish these little issues and we’ll be major contenders in the long run.”
Dirk Müller, No. 66 Ford GT: “It was so cool to have my first race with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing and all of Ford Performance in the Ford GT. Yes, we had some problems, but we finished and we finished in the (IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship) points. It was kind of an honor to bring the car back home at the end. I was happy to see the checkered flag. The car was really nice for me. I’ve had good experiences in the car. The minor issues we’ve had we haven’t had at the tests, so we need to consider this as sort of a test and if we learn about all of these little things, we’re right there. The pace is there, which is really important. I really hope we made all the Ford people around the world really proud today.”
Sébastien Bourdais, No. 66 Ford GT: “It’s a brand new program, so we didn’t expect to run free, but at the end of the day, the car showed some pace and we’ve been able to reach the checkered flag. There’s been a few issues, but one that’s been happening a few times which obviously took us out of contention. That had never happened before. We will just try to understand and fix it and come back stronger.”
Scott Dixon, No. 02 Target/Claritin Ford EcoBoost Riley prototype: “I think, as far as Daytona Prototypes, we were the quickest, both the (No.) 02 and the 01. I feel bad for Chip. All four cars had sort of gremlins. Unfortunately with the 02, we kept losing brakes, which is not real good for confidence. We lost the rears, then we lost the fronts, which initially put us down 10 laps. We got six laps back during the night and then on my (next-to-) last stint, we lost the fronts. A bit annoying and then obviously Kyle (Larson) lost the rears and ended up taking the front of the car off, through no fault of his own. A car with no brakes is not good around here, especially with a lot of these hairpins. But everybody on the Target/Claritin car worked very hard, we just had a lot of problems. And that was across the board for everybody on the team. I’m just glad everybody got away safe. I can’t say enough for the (crew) guys. The car was pretty much destroyed and they rebuilt the thing. It was the last ride for this car. I hope Chip has some plans for Prototypes next year or at least being in something next year. This is something I’ve been involved in since 2004. Twelve years doing this racing and it’s a lot of fun.”
Tony Kanaan, No. 02 Target/Claritin Ford EcoBoost Riley prototype: “It was a tough race for us. That’s typically a 24-hour problem, right? It’s very unpredictable. The one thing I should say is that I’m proud of this team. The mentality that we have. We’re 28 laps down right now and still setting fast laps after fast laps. We don’t give up. This is how we win – this is how we lose. We don’t know any other way to go racing. All I have to say, I told Chip we have to come back again.”
Kyle Larson, No. 02 Target/Claritin Ford EcoBoost Riley prototype: “I had a lot of fun, it’s just disappointing we had the brake issues, it seems like most of the race there. I caught the tail end of it. Tony (Kanaan) got it the first time, then I was good for my stints. I think overnight they had more problems, and when I got back in this morning we had our issues and I wrecked. I hate that we couldn’t back up our victory we had last year.”
Jamie McMurray, No. 02 Target/Claritin Ford EcoBoost Riley prototype: “It seems like it was a really long weekend for all of our cars…I had a really good time getting to be part of the race again and driving with Scott (Dixon), Kyle (Larson) and Tony (Kanaan). I hope we get to do it again. Chip always puts together a great program for this race and it’s one of my favorite events each year with the team. You really have to have everything go right for you and we just didn’t catch the breaks we needed this weekend unfortunately.”
Lance Stroll, No. 01 Claritin/Target Ford EcoBoost Riley prototype: “It was a great experience. I’m so happy to be part of this event at such a young age. I really have to thank Chip Ganassi for giving me the opportunity to do this. It’s really a great race that I can put in my CV for my career. It was just a bit unfortunate with the two mechanical failures we had that really set us back a lot, but in the end, my stints I know were good. We gained time, all of us. All of the drivers did a good job and the team did a good job. It’s just a bit unfortunate it got a bit unlucky with the mechanical failures, but a big thanks to Ford Chip Ganassi Racing and the whole crew for the effort. Maybe we’ll be back next year.”
Andy Priaulx, No. 01 Claritin/Target Ford EcoBoost Riley prototype: “Well, it was such an honor to race for Chip Ganassi Racing in the Rolex 24. Almost like a dream come true. After the first 18 hours or so, it seemed like that dream might come true. The last six hours hurt us with the issues we had, but I was just really excited to be able to race with this great group of drivers and experience this event with all of them.”
Brendon Hartley, No. 01 Claritin/Target Ford EcoBoost Riley prototype: “I love the Rolex 24. It’s my fourth time doing it, but actually the first time I’ve finished. My teammates, team, the mechanics, everyone did a fantastic job today. It was all going to plan. We were keeping it tidy, no mistakes. We knew we had a quick car and that showed with the lap times at the end, but unfortunately we lost a few laps with a small overheating issue. Apart from that, I think it’s just unfortunate it happened so late. We got one lap back and that was from passing the leader. Great effort by everyone and I hope I’m back next year.”
Alex Wurz, No. 01 Claritin/Target Ford EcoBoost Riley prototype: “I have to take a step back from the current emotions because I’m tired. Up to hour 20, we’d just done it perfect. Everyone on the team worked towards it, battling faster LMP2 cars, but we were there, and in the end the chassis was just perfect, exactly like we planned it. Unfortunately, we had just a little problem which cost us a few laps, but that’s racing. That’s why we love it. Emotions go up and down. As of myself, I’m very glad I did Daytona. I’ve always wanted to do it. It’s a cool race. It’s a tough race. Thanks to Chip (Ganassi) and Mike (Hull) and the team for the opportunity and welcoming me to the States.”
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