Enzo Ferrari was partly responsible for a lot more sports cars than he’s given credit for. The Old Man apparently had a way of, shall we say, inspiring others to go off in a huff to build their own cars in order to spite him. He reportedly insulted a customer who complained of clutch problems. That customer turned out to be Ferruccio Lamborghini who then started the firm that bears his name.
The Ford GT40 is another car that came to be in part because of Ferrari. Its development was commissioned by Henry Ford II after he was rebuffed in his attempt to purchase the fabled Italian company. The GT40’s mission was to race and beat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It didso four consecutive times from 1966 to 1969 – including a 1-2-3 sweep in 1966.
The GT40 ended Ferrari’s streak of six straight Le Mans victories from 1960 to 1965. (Ferrari hasn’t won Le Mans since, concentrating on Formula One instead.) After that things quieted down as Ford became preoccupied with other things as the malaise of the 1970s set in.
It wasn’t until 2005 that the spiritual successor to the GT40, the Ford GT, was introduced to once again battle Ferrari. But this time the battle was not on the track so much as in the sports car marketplace.
While it certainly bears a strong resemblance to its predecessor the GT is a much larger car, its 106.7 inch wheelbase about a foot longer, and its 44.3 inch height about four more than that of the GT40.
The 2014 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is now in the books. One of the three top contenders won the race as expected… but a whole lot of other things happened too. Here’s the short, short version of events:
Audi took the overall and LMP-1 win with a 1-2 finish, an amazing 13th victory in 16 attempts, though it was not without drama. The third Audi (#3) and #8 Toyota were involved in a crash in wet conditions about 90 minutes into the race. The Audi was unable to continue while the Toyota limped back to the pits and was in the garage for about 50 minutes to repair the damage.
The winning team consisted of Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer in their R18 etron quattro. Le Mans legend Tom Kristensen was part of the team that finished second in the sister Audi after the car experienced turbo problems. His teammates were Lucas Di Grassi and Marc Gene, both ex-F1 drivers.
The 82nd running of the French classic takes place this weekend, June 14th and 15th, at the Circuit de la Sarthe, a high speed track nearly 8.5 miles in length. Fifty-six cars are entered across four classes of prototype race cars and production-based GT cars.
One surprising fact: Fully half of the entries are powered by Ferrari and Nissan (14 cars each). However, it is unlikely either will take the overall win since the top LMP-1 class is composed primarily of seven manufacturer-backed hybrid-electric prototypes from Audi, Porsche and Toyota.
The LMP-2 class has largely privateer teams running prototypes (17 cars), while the GTE Pro class has nine cars entered and the GTE Amateur class has 19 entries. However, some of those entries are really stretching the definition of “amateur” with several ex-F1 drivers and Ben Collins (formerly The Stig on BBC’s Top Gear) in their line ups. Continue reading “24 Hours of Le Mans Preview: Porsche, Audi or Toyota?” »