Ford’s GT Race Cars Get a 12-Hour Do Over!
After a disappointing debut at the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona in January, the Ford GT GTLM cars are looking to check the win column and score a victory at Sebring. The Ford Performance team wants blood and they’ll have 12 hours to strike the jugular of their competition, especially the Corvette racing folks who seem unstoppable.
The Ford GT’s below par performance at Daytona still netted them the fastest lap times, something the other teams in the GTLM class noticed. And let’s face it; with the short on-track development time for the Ford GT prior to the Rolex 24, you have appreciate the fact that it stills poses a major threat in the heated endurance racing wars on both sides of the pond. But, it’s also a challenge, as Ford Performance is basically developing a race car and road car at the same time. These unknowns take time and it’s taxing on the teams.
“We learned a lot at Daytona; we basically learned how to race the Ford GT. We didn’t have a ton of time with the car—it’s no excuse— but you have to remember we had very little opportunity behind the wheel in race conditions. We also had supplier quality issues, but we fixed all that and moved on. I’m confident we’ve addressed these problems and can demonstrate the durability of the car with a win at Sebring,” said Ford Performance Director Dave Pericak.
Ford Performance and Chip Ganassi Racing Chip also did more testing after Daytona and learned more about what the Ford GT liked and didn’t like. That’s important, especially when you come rolling into Sebring International Raceway. It might be the Holy Grail of American endurance racing, but it’s 3.74 miles of rough, bumpy, uneven concrete whose surface pounds suspensions for mercy and chews up tires like no one’s business. It’s a challenging track that sits on the same property as Sebring Airport. Drivers hurl their million dollar exotic racecars on parts of the original runways that B17 bombers used for training aircrews during World War II when it was called Hendricks Army Airfield.
Today, Sebring’s still the proving ground for a battle in Europe, albeit not in the sky. The course at Sebring International Raceway very closely resembles Le Mans and if you’re heading “Over There,” Sebring’s mean and nasty pavement will show the teams where the car’s weak links lie in the chassis, brakes, tires, and other essential areas that take a pounding when you combine different racing surfaces.
“There are issues when running at Sebring. The constant max suspension travel is tough on the car and the floor pan gets beat up from scraping the track’s uneven surface,” mentioned Pericak. However, those are small issues that can be addressed by more laps around this historic place.
With the focus on a return to Le Mans to celebrate the 50th -anniversary of the victorious 1966 race with the Ford GT40 and drivers Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon, you know it’s all hands on deck to replicate the same outcome five decades ago.
They say there’s more romance and “cool factor” winning the 12 Hours of Sebring over the Rolex 24. Despite being half the time as the IMSA season opener in Daytona, 12 hours of blasting through Sebring’s tight bends, hairpins, short straights, long straights, and sweeping curves, while running in traffic, will require man and machine to act as one to overcome the mechanical toll and mental stress.
We think the Ford GT might just be the machine to make that happen.
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