From Ford Racing
BRASELTON, Ga. -– Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s IMSA team nearly capped off a fantastic debut year with a win at Petit Le Mans, the final race of the season. Instead, it drove its way to a second-place finish and its eighth total IMSA podium for 2016 in a debut year for the Ford GT that stunned many of the most optimistic sports car fans.
Drivers Dirk Müller, Joey Hand and Sébastien Bourdais – winners at the Le Mans 24 Hours in GTE Pro in June – combined once again to make the podium at the 10-hour race that ended in a dash to the finish. The No. 66 Ford GT crossed the stripe p2 with Müller behind the wheel one day after its sister car, the No. 67 Ford GT, qualified on pole for the fourth time thanks to Richard Westbrook.
By any measure, the season was a successful one for the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing IMSA squad.
“It’s been a great year, with a new program and new people,” said Team Owner Chip Ganassi. “We were lucky enough to have some great wins this year at some big races. It’s going to be a busy off-season. We’ll get this this car in order so we can win a lot more next season.”
The No. 67 Ford GT earned three race wins (Laguna Seca, Watkins Glen, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park) and finished p3 at Le Mans with Scott Dixon completing their roster. At Road Atlanta, Dixon, Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe showed pace during the race, but were set back 21 laps after an early on-track incident sent them to the paddock with a broken waste gate pipe.
While that early issue ended their long-shot hopes of winning the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship title, it’s not what they’ll remember about the season.
“Honestly, at the end of it all, today’s race was a bit of a bummer. We had some problems but showed really good pace, which was great. We got the pole, which was awesome, but we have a lot to take away from the season,” said Briscoe, who qualified p1 at Circuit of the Americas. “It’s been a lot of fun, a lot of great racing and there are a lot of positives to carry into next year. I’m just really proud of everyone on the team, of all the hard work they’ve done, and my teammates on both cars. It’s been a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to next year.”
With 47 minutes to go, Müller passed for the lead. A stop shortly after for the No. 66 put them in second place, where they stayed despite his dash to the finish as the race went yellow, then green, in the closing minutes.
Abroad, three races remain on the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing FIA World Endurance schedule: 6 Hours of Fuji (16 Oct); 6 Hours of Shanghai (6 Nov); and 6 Hours of Bahrain (19 Nov).
“It looks like we like the name ‘Le Mans,’” said Müller, who drove the final stint to the checkered flag at the Le Mans 24 Hours. “After the win at the Le Mans 24 Hours, we finish second at the Petit Le Mans. I think we had a good shot to win it today, but it’s a tough one with all the yellows. You have to be at the right spot at the right time. Traffic was a big thing today, but you know what? That’s a brilliant second place here and I want to thank the whole team, every single person who works on this team, and everyone from Ford Performance, Multimatic and Roush Yates engines who are supporting us. I’m really proud to be part of this program.”
Hand, who joins Müller fulltime in the No. 66, equally welcomed the seemingly change in fortune that landed their team on the second step of the podium.
“It started out pretty well,” Hand said. “We had a little bit of contact at the start and we lost our left-hand side mirror, and I thought ‘man, is it going to be that kind of day?’ After that, I had a good first two stints. We got up to second place and were just trying to make our fuel number. We hung out near the top most of the day. Then I got in the car at night and we think we may have broken a sway bar or something. As it goes, I think we had a pretty good race car and it’s just one of those things, this track beats it up. It’s only a 10-hour race compared to the Le Mans 24 Hours, but it’s a tough race track. I’m glad we were able to hang on for a podium and I can’t wait to get going again next season.”