Andy Priaulx has played down rumours Ford has been holding back its full potential at Le Mans and says his GT squad has been pushing since day one.
After Ford looked relatively competitive without taking a march on the GTE-Pro field at the Le Mans test day, all four Ford Chip Ganassi entries shot into the top five in the first qualifying session for this year's Le Mans with only the factory AF Corse Ferrari splitting the quartet in third.
Priaulx feels Ford has taken a meticulous plan to its preparations for Le Mans – having announced its comeback exactly 12 months ago and stating it is here to win first time out – but doesn't feel any of his squad has been hiding performance.
The former WTCC champion points to the US-branch of the Ford GT squad winning its first race in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Laguna Seca while Priaulx, alongside co-drivers Harry Tincknell and Marino Franchitti, grabbed second place last time out in the World Endurance Championship at Spa.
“Before this weekend there was a lot of that going on [sand-bagging]. Everyone is thinking and talking about it,” Priaulx said. “We proved in Spa we are pushing 100% as we were binging track limits. All the manufacturers are playing politics and that is the unfortunate side of this business.
“As a driver you can only give 100%, I hope there is more to come, but it is an unknown to us. We go into every session and every race not knowing our competitors as well as the rest.”
Priaulx feels Ferrari will pose the biggest challenge to Ford with its experience and strength in the GTE field but is confident the American manufacturer, with its 'ambitious rookie' mentality can battle for victory this weekend.
“Ferrari are going to be fast. They are fuel efficient and top speeds look good and they've got an aerodynamic front package like an F1 car,” he said. “Everybody has got the potential to win this race though.
“We have the rookie mentality but we are ambitious rookies. In terms of what Ford and the team has done it has been uncompromising with the design of the car so they deserve to win but that doesn't mean you will. They've covered all bases; engine, fuel efficiency, tyres – we've done all we can.”