PRIVATE TEAMS REKINDLE MEMORIES OF GT40 GLORY DAYS AT 2010 LE MANS 24-HOURS COLOGNE, 2 JUNE 2010 - Two private teams are planning to return the iconic Ford GT name to the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours race (12 - 13 June) in France next week, for...
PRIVATE TEAMS REKINDLE MEMORIES OF GT40 GLORY DAYS AT 2010 LE MANS 24-HOURS
COLOGNE, 2 JUNE 2010 - Two private teams are planning to return the iconic Ford GT name to the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours race (12 - 13 June) in France next week, for the first time in more than 40 years.
For the 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours event, Swiss team Matech Competition and the Belgian Team Marc VDS Racing will aim to recapture the glory years with their Ford GT racers. Matech Competition has entered two cars in the GT1 category, while Marc VDS Racing will campaign a third car among the 56- strong entry.
The Matech Ford GT1 recently claimed a 1-2-3 result in the Spa 1000km, with Bas Leinders, Eric De Doncker and Markus Palttala taking the Marc VDS Racing car to overall victory. The Matech team also made a strong start in the FIA GT1 World Championship, winning both the opening round in Abu Dhabi and the third round last month in the Czech Republic. Team drivers Romain Grosjean and Thomas Mutsch lead the drivers' standings after three of the 10 rounds.
Grosjean and Mutsch will be joined by Jonathan Hirschi at Le Mans in one of the Matech cars, while the team's other Ford GT1 will be crewed by the all- female Swiss line-up of Natacha Gachnang, Cyndie Allemann and Rahel Frey. The Marc VDS Racing Ford GT1 will be driven as usual by Leinders, De Doncker and Palttala.
Switzerland's Grosjean raced in Formula 1 during 2009 before joining the Matech line-up for this season, while Mutsch, from Germany, is in his fourth year with the team. Swiss-born Hirschi is another regular in the FIA GT1 World Championship, driving for Hexis AMR. He drove for Matech in the Spa 1000km this season as well as during the squad's FIA GT Championship programme last year.
The all-female Swiss line-up in one of the Matech cars is a real first for the Le Mans 24 Hours race. Gachnang, who has recovered from a broken leg sustained in the opening GT1 championship round in Abu Dhabi, is the cousin of F1 driver Sébastien Buemi and raced in Formula 2 last season. Frey and Allemann have both raced in Formula 3.
Leinders is a former British, Benelux and European Formula Ford Champion and in 2004 was the test and reserve driver for Minardi F1 when the team campaigned the Ford Cosworth powered Minardi PS04. The Belgian is a team- mate of Finn Palttala in Marc VDS Racing's FIA GT1 World Championship squad. De Doncker won the GT4 European Cup in both 2007 and 2008 in a Ford Mustang.
Ford GT40 - A Le Mans Legend
Ford dominated the classic sports car endurance race in the 1960s, when the GT40 won four years in a row between 1966 and 1969 and, although it is not competing as a factory team this year, Ford provides technical support to the privateers taking part.
The Ford GT40 was designed by a team of engineers from Britain and the United States, led by Eric Broadley. It debuted in April 1964, less than a year after the first engineering drawings were penned. After retiring from the 1964 Le Mans race, Carroll Shelby was handed control of the race programme.
The car retired from the lead in 1965 but claimed a spectacular and highly memorable 1-2-3 win in 1966, led by Chris Amon and Bruce McLaren. The following year Dan Gurney and AJ Foyt cruised to victory by 32 miles in the famous seven-litre red MkIV, setting an average speed record of 135.40mph. Ford's official factory programme at Le Mans came to a close on a high.
Revised rules capped engine size at five litres in 1968. Private team John Willment Automotive converted a Mirage - a lightweight GT40 derivative - back to GT40 bodywork and Pedro Rodriguez and Lucien Bianchi claimed the car's hat-trick at the Sarthe circuit.
The 1969 race had an especially strong entry. Jacky Ickx and Jackie Oliver fought a thrilling duel with the Porsche 908 of Hans Herrmann. The lead changed hands repeatedly in the last three hours as the lightweight GT40, dressed in the famous blue and orange Gulf Oil livery, frequently used its weight advantage to dive into the lead under braking. Ickx eventually crossed the line with a slender two second lead, which equated to just 120 metres' advantage, after 24 hours of thrilling racing.