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Ford will return to Le Mans, but can it repeat last year’s performance?

Le Mans Ford 2016
Image used with permission by copyright holder
One year after its fairy-tale class win at the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans, Ford will aim for a repeat victory. The Dearborn, Michigan, automaker is planning a second all-out assault on the legendary endurance race.

Ford was invited back for 2017 by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), the organization that runs Le Mans. Just like last year, Ford will field four GT race cars run by U.S.-based Chip Ganassi Racing. They’ll be among 13 cars in the GTE Pro class, which is the top class for cars based on production models. A total of 60 cars are expected to race at Le Mans this year.

Ford entered Le Mans last year with the hope of nabbing a GTE Pro class victory on the 50th anniversary of the original GT40’s 1-2-3 overall Le Mans win. The GT40 is the car that inspired the current GT, and that 1966 win is one of the most legendary in motor sports history. Ford’s chances last year were considered somewhat slim, because at the time the GT was a new and relatively untested car.

If Ford wins again this year, history will once again be repeating itself. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Ford’s second Le Mans overall win, with a GT40 driven by Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt. Ford GT40s also won the race in 1968 and 1969, although it’s unclear if Ford plans to keep the current GT racing program going for a full four years.

The 2017 lineup includes the team of drivers that won at Le Mans last year. Joey Hand, Dirk Muller, and Sebastian Bourdais will once again share the number 68 car. The lineups for cars 66 and 69 are unchanged as well, while 23-year-old Luis Felipe “Pipo” Derani will join returning drivers Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx in the number 67 car.

While Ford was something of an underdog in 2016, it’s the team to beat this year. Ford’s season has already gotten off to a strong start, with a class victory at the recent Rolex 24 at Daytona. We’ll see if the Blue Oval team can keep up that momentum between now and June, when the green flag drops on the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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Stephen Edelstein
Stephen is a freelance automotive journalist covering all things cars. He likes anything with four wheels, from classic cars…
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