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Ford GT40: American Beauty

In the mid-1960s, Ford set out to beat Ferrari in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and for that he built a car that went down in history.


History Ford GT40 is simple and straightforward: he was born to defeat Ferrari. How? In the early 1960s Ford tried to buy the house in Maranello, which was going through a severe financial crisis caused by the high costs of its sports program, which included the F1 and endurance racing.

The negotiations had several twists and turns until Don Enzo Ferrari rejected the 18 million dollars of the American firm (currently the Italian brand is worth 3.6 billion dollars) and accepted the proposal that Fiat had made (a strategic collaboration that in 1969 it would lead the Turin factory to buy 50% of the sports car manufacturer).

Ford GT40: American BeautyHenry Ford II, by then the boss of Ford Motor Company, was left with the blood in his eye and had no better idea than to take revenge in a field in which the Prancing Horse seemed invincible: the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Italian sport prototypes had no rivals at the legendary La Sarthe circuit, something that was confirmed by the victories achieved in 1958, 1960, 1961, 1962 and 1963. At Ford they understood that they had to invest a lot of money and that they also had to take their time to develop a vehicle capable of beating its Italian cars. And they do it like that.

The project was in charge of the engineer Roy lunn. The first thing he did was travel to England to hire Eric Broadley, who was already working for Lola on a monohull similar to the one she had planned to build. This gave Broadley an advantage over someone much cooler and who at the time already had a well-earned name in F.1: Colin chapman, owner of Lotus and who was also in Ford's sights.

Ford GT40: American BeautyTo complete the team, Lunn signed John wyer, former head of Aston Martin's racing department, who knew Le Mans better than anyone. Carrol ShelbyFor his part, he was in charge of the distribution of the series cars and of running the GT40 in the United States.

But the "dream team" did not last long. Broadley left him because of the differences in concepts he had with Lunn. While he wanted to make a lightweight monocoque ideal for racing, his boss was determined to create a steel car that could be used in racing, but at the same time be a street super sports car.

The Ford model was dubbed the GT in reference to it being a "grand tourer," while it was numbered 40 for its height: 40 inches (1.016 mm). There were four versions to the extent that it was worked on in its development: MK I, MK II, MK III y MK IV. A 8-liter V4.2 was used in the first, a 4.7-liter V7.0 in the third, and a XNUMX-liter in the remaining two.

The first two forays of the Ford GT40 at Le Mans (1964 and 1965) were unsuccessful. While the American prototype suffered a thousand and one technical problems, the Ferraris celebrate victories. Something that, of course, was not amusing to Mr. Ford. To reverse the situation, he threw responsibility for the team to Shelby, who also had an unrestricted budget (legend has it that 40 million dollars were spent on the project, double what Ferrari was worth…).

Ford GT40: American BeautyWith this new sports policy, the first success came in 1966 from the hand of the New Zealanders Chris Amon y Bruce mclaren on a MK II. Finally, Ford had retaliated. But it would not be his only success, since in 1967 the victory was achieved by another GT40 - this time a MK IV - with two Americans: Dan Gurney y AJ Foyt. 

However, the golden era of the Oval at Le Mans did not last much longer. Following the decision of the International Automobile Federation to ban five-liter engines, in 1968 Ford gave up on maintaining its official representation. However, the brand was well represented by the Gulf team, who continued with the string of victories with the MK I version thanks to the Mexican Pedro Rodriguez and the Belgian Lucien bianchi, In that same year; and the belgian Jacky Ickx and English Jackie Oliver, in 1969. Without a doubt, the objective for which the GT40 was born had been fulfilled.

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Diego durruty

Journalist with 30 years of experience. Worked in magazines STROKE, The graphic, Coequipier y Only TC, on the Internet sites SportsYa!, e-driver.com y kmcero.com and on the radios Rock pop y Vorterix.com. He covered the Dakar rally for the German agency dpa. He currently drives Two Daring Guys, a car magazine that is broadcast on Tuesdays from 18 to 19 by RadioArroba.com; is editor of motorsport in Red Bull Argentina, columnist on the show WorldSport (AM Splendid) and in Surf & Rock FM.  He is also a teacher in SPORTS. Now you can read it on his blog: automundo.com.ar.

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