Ford has officially confirmed it will return to the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2016 on the 50th anniversary of its famous win with a factory GTE Pro effort prepared by Chip Ganassi Racing.
Ahead of the 2015 race, Ford pulled the wraps off the competition version of its new GT supercar, which was first unveiled in January, confirming it will enter four cars in the GTE class of both the Le Mans 24 Hours and the full World Endurance Championship under the associated Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates banners.
American outfit Chip Ganassi Racing, which has been running a Ford-powered Daytona Prototype car in the United SportsCar Championship, will take the reins in preparing the car for next year's event as it looks to secure its first win at the endurance classic. No drivers have been announced.
The announcement comes ahead of Ford's famous victory in the 1966 Le Mans 24 Hours, which kick-started a run of four victories for the American firm and sealed the legendary status of the Ford GT.
Though the fairly recent iteration of the second generation GT has competed at Le Mans under a privateer banner, this new effort will be entirely backed by the Ford Motor Company, with Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates set to enter two cars each in next year's round-the-clock classic.
“As we developed the Ford GT, from the outset we wanted to ensure we had a car that has what it takes to return Ford to the world of GT racing,” said Raj Nair, Ford Motor Company group vice president, Global Product Development and chief technical officer. “We believe the Ford GT's advances in aerodynamics, light-weighting and EcoBoost power will make for a compelling race car that can once again compete on a global stage.”
The car will be powered by a 3.5-litre V6 EcoBoost engine, which has already enjoyed success in the USCC, and will make its competition debut in January's Daytona 24.
“We've won races and championships, but we've never run Le Mans,” said team owner Chip Ganassi. “When presented the opportunity to compete with the all-new Ford GT on the world's biggest sports car stage, and on the 50th anniversary of one of the most storied victories in racing history, how could any race team not want to be part of that? Will it be a challenge? Absolutely, but we couldn't be with a better partner than Ford.”