In 1966, Ford Motor Company launched the greatest challenge in its history. The team of racing car manufacturers set out to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the most prestigious race in the world. The story begins three years earlier, in 1963. In an attempt to remedy the company's shortcomings against General Motors both in the sales room and on the track, Henry Ford II created an agreement to buy Ferrari, who, until now, They owned the most dominant team in motorsport. His intention was to race alongside the iconic Italian brand, and in turn spread Ford's influence on a global scale.
However, when the deal fell through, it began one of the fiercest rivalries in automotive history. Ford decided there was only one place to take revenge on Ferrari: on the track. The choice would be the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the race of
most acclaimed resistance in the world and with more international influence than any other competition. It was in that project that the Detroit automakers proceeded to make a multi-million dollar investment. However, Ford not only underperformed in the 1964 race but throughout the year: there was not a single Ford car that could finish a race all season.
Increasingly frustrated, Ford took his GT40 car to Carroll Shelby, owner of Shelby American and a former Le Mans-winning driver. The car had been designed by Ford engineers with the help of the Lola Cars company, but after multiple car failures over the years, Henry Ford II gave Shelby a clear goal: to win. Who would become a crucial part of the development of the GT40 would be Ken Miles, an English driver and mechanical engineer, who had already played an important role in the development and success of Shelby's AC Cobra car.
Miles helped Shelby deal with many of the car's problems and did endless testing. But after Ford decided to change the car's engine at the last minute before the 1965 Le Mans race, neither GT40 could finish the race. Ferrari continued to win, thus earning their fifth victory in a row. As Ford's desire to beat Ferrari grew, so did Shelby's commitment to the GT40. The team and Miles continued their work, upping the car's horsepower, adding lighter magnesium wheels, grippier tires and better brakes.
On June 18, 1966, the 34th edition of the Endurance Grand Prix at the 24 Hours of Le Mans began. This is the story told by the movie “Ford v Ferrari”, starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale and which was released in 2019. Just like us, both Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles share a great passion for cars and racing . They don't see it as a job, they don't see it as a way to earn, and they certainly don't see it as a way to make money. They can't imagine themselves doing anything else, and if they're not allowed to, they'll fight to the bitter end to do it.
So if you were left wondering how this rivalry between two of the biggest automotive brands continued, you already have plans for this weekend. Multiple attempts at victory, two great drivers and an iconic race. Let's see the movie!
Author: Florencia Andersen
1. Mercado, M., 2020. Ken Miles the Illustrious unknown by Ford. [online] Carburizing. Available at: <https://carburando.com/notas/ken-miles-el-illustre-desconocido-por-ford> [Accessed June 10, 2021].
2. Garcia, À., 2014. 24 hours of Le Mans 1966: Chris Amon and Bruce McLaren win by eight meters. [online] Motorpasion.com. Available at: <https://www.motorpasion.com/formula1/24-horas-de-le-mans-1966-chris-amon-y-bruce-mclaren-ganan-por-ocho-metros> [Accessed June 10, 2021].
3. HD Report, 2020. ‘Ford v Ferrari’ Blu-ray & 4k Blu-ray Details & Exclusives |. [online] Hd-report.com. Available at: <https://hd-report.com/2020/02/02/ford-v-ferrari-blu-ray-4k-blu-ray-details-exclusives/> [Accessed June 10, 2021].