Ford Motor Company has just announced an extensive racing program for their new Ford GT super car. Ford will attack both the Tudor United SportsCar Championship and the World Endurance Championship, each with a two-car effort under the auspices of Chip Ganassi Racing. Their real target, however, is Le Mans in 2016, the fiftieth anniversary of the earlier Ford GT’s first win and podium sweep. To take a car that has yet to turn a wheel in anger and make it into a fast and reliable racer to compete at the top level of the sport is a prodigious undertaking, even for an organization as experienced as Chip Ganassi Racing. But, as more information comes out, it is apparent that Ford has been hard at work under the radar and may be further along in the car development than we know.
Tudor United SportsCar Championship
Having a race series in which Ford and Chevrolet go head-to-head all season long would be a dream season for every race fan who still has a pulse. Corvette Racing will, no doubt, not only will be up to the challenge, but may be reinvigorated by the new blue oval kids on the block.
However, there is a perception among Corvette fans that the wonderful folks at IMSA have thrown stumbling blocks in Corvette’s way in the past by using their apparently unlimited powers to continually adjust the Balance of Performance, making it more difficult for the Corvettes to run at the front of the pack. Hopefully, IMSA has the smarts to realize how much fun and successful the upcoming season for 2016 could be if the performance of the Ford GT and the Corvette was truly balanced. Given the organizations past performance, which was definitely unbalanced, it may be expecting too much. We don’t know what has gone on behind the scenes between IMSA and Corvette Racing, but we hope IMSA listened to whatever Doug Fehan, Corvette Racing Program Director, had to say.
The prestige of competing and doing well at Le Mans is the passion that drives Corvette Racing. According to Ollie Gavin, “A lot of people at Corvette Racing would look at winning Le Mans as winning the season – that’s the level and prestige of the 24 Hours.” No doubt Le Mans is vitally important to Corvette Racing and the TUSC series is their ticket to Le Mans. Whatever happens with IMSA’s Balance of Performance machinations, we don’t think Corvette Racing will jeopardize their Le Mans ticket by rocking the boat—and besides, TUSC is the only game in town. Hopefully, they will be given a fair shot at competing with the Fords.
World Endurance Championship
Ford’s entry into the GTE-PRO class in the World Endurance Championship will have no competition from Corvette. Larbre Competition is currently the only Corvette entry in the WEC, but they are in the GTE-AM class, which is limited to non-professional drivers. In the past, Corvette Racing has avoided competing in the WEC, not wishing to go against customer Corvettes. While this is a noble business gesture, we note that that there are no Corvettes in the WEC GTE-PRO class. There could be factory Corvettes in GTE-PRO without running against the customers.
Le Mans 2016
You can bet your Chevrolet bow tie that Ford will pull out all of the stops when it comes to the 2016 Le Mans. An ongoing barrage of pre-race publicity will set the stage for what conceivably will be a four-car Ford GT entry—two from TUSC and two from the WEC.
In view of the importance of Le Mans to Corvette Racing, it might be time for the bean counters at Chevrolet to open their pocketbooks a little and fund an official Corvette Racing partner in Europe to run factory Corvettes in the WEC. There are probably more than a few experienced teams and drivers in Europe that would be ecstatic to be Corvette Racing’s partner and compete in the WEC with a couple of factory Corvettes.
So, c’mon Chevrolet, pony up and give the men and women of Corvette Racing on the front lines the allies and ammunition they need to protect their vital interest in Le Mans. A couple more Corvette entries in Le Mans GTE-PRO from the WEC would help drive back the invading hordes of Fords.