In 1966, a Ford GT40 won the Daytona 24 Hours, a prelude to the car’s legendary victory over Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Five decades later, Ford hoped to commemorate that win with a command performance from its all-new GT, but that didn’t happen.
The production-based GTs and Ford’s Daytona Prototypes were defeated at the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona. The overall win and Prototype class victory went to a Ligier-Honda JSP2, while the GTLM class win that the Ford GT was angling for went to arch-rival Chevrolet and its Corvette C7.R.
While the Prototype cars are the ones in contention for the overall win, all eyes were on the two production-based classes (GTLM and GTD) this year because they encompassed a swarm of new cars. In addition to the Ford GT, the GTLM also saw the launch of the Ferrari 488 GTE and BMW’s new M6 racer. BMW aimed for a class win to kick off the celebration of its 100th anniversary, but both newcomers were left in the wake of the veteran Corvettes and Porsche 911s, which spent most of the race dueling each other.
The red-white-and-blue Ford GTs certainly looked good on the track, but they were plagued with mechanical issues. Less than an hour into the race, the number 67 car developed an electrical problem that left it stuck in sixth gear. Problems continued for both cars, keeping them out of contention. The Corvettes, meanwhile, crossed the finish line side by side, with the number 4 car taking first in class by just 0.034 second.
While Ford was on the offensive in GTLM, it was on the defensive in Prototype. Its Daytona Prototype (which uses a similar 3.5-liter turbocharged EcoBoost V6 to the production GT) won last year, but wouldn’t earn a repeat victory. Instead, Honda marked its first Daytona win with a car built by French firm Ligier, and powered by a new HR35TT twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine. The engine is based on a V6 used in Honda production cars, and even uses the factory-stock oil filter.
In GTD, the brand-new Lamborghini Huracán GT3 looked fast, but ultimately fell to corporate cousin Audi’s second-generation R8 LMS, which made its North American racing debut at Daytona. The race gets the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season off to an exciting start, with teams now looking to the 12 Hours of Sebring in March. Meanwhile, Ford still has plenty of time to sort out the GT’s reliability issues before the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.