Ford has announced the four drivers that will lead its much anticipated return to the Le Mans 24 Hours and the World Endurance Championship in 2016, with Andy Priaulx, Stefan Mucke, Marino Franchitti and Oliver Pla signed to drive its two Ford GT entries.
Six months after the manufacturer officially announced its high-profile return to international motorsport with an assault on both the WEC and Le Mans 24 Hours, Ford has unveiled an experienced, all-European driver line-up to head up its ambitious project.
The GT will make its competition debut in this month's Rolex 24 at Daytona, before two cars will be entered into both the American-based IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the World Endurance Championship. It is intended that all four cars will be entered into the GTE Pro class of the Le Mans 24 Hours, on the 50th anniversary of Ford's famous 1-2-3 win, to go up against Porsche, Ferrari, Corvette and Aston Martin
Of the quartet, Mucke and Franchitti are the most experienced at GT level, with both competing at a high-level in sportscars for several years, while Pla gets a full-time Ford deal following a brief spell with Nissan developing its shortlived LMP1 effort. Priaulx, meanwhile, will be making a full-time switch to sportscars having established himself as one of most successful touring car drivers in the world.
“Make no mistake, we are racing to win,” said Dave Pericak, Ford Performance global director. “To compete at this level you need the best car, the best team and the best drivers, and we have selected Stefan, Olivier, Andy and Marino to drive the Ford GT to take on the best in the world.”
“I'm excited to be at team HQ in the UK to launch the WEC team,” added Chip Ganassi, whose eponymous team will run Ford's effort. “Just like when we announced the Ford GT drivers for the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship last month, we've again chosen drivers with heart, speed and proven endurance racing credentials. It's a global team running in two championships and I can't wait for the racing to begin.”
Mucke will be the first of the quartet to get his hands on the Ford GT when he races at Daytona, joining Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe in one entry, with Dirk Muller and Joey Hand driving the other alongside Williams F1 development driver Lance Stroll.