Ford versus Ferrari rivalry hotting up in Texas heat
As the FIA World Endurance Championship heads to Austin, Texas, for the 6 Hours of COTA, one of sportscar racing’s oldest rivalries is set to reignite in the LMGTE Pro class.
After Davide Rigon and Sam Bird finished second in the final race results in Mexico, thanks to a 10-second time penalty, just nine points separate Ferrari and Ford in the GT World Endurance Manufacturers' Championship title race. With only four rounds of the season to go, sportscar racing fans can expect to see the latest chapter unfold in a story that has been 50 years in the making.
The two titans of sportscar racing began their quest for endurance racing supremacy in the early 1960s, when Henry Ford II was rebuffed in his efforts to buy out Enzo Ferrari. On his return to Detroit, Ford promptly summoned his top brass and famously ordered them to design a car that could beat the Italian marque at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
By 1966 Ford was under pressure, following two years without registering a finish as Ferrari stretched its unbeaten streak to six on the trot. But, in the hands of Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon, the V8-powered GT40 was the car to beat and led home a Blue Oval podium sweep that year.
Photo: Autoevolution 24 Hours of Le Mans 1966
AJ Foyt/Dan Gurney (1967), Pedro Rodriguez/Lucien Bianchi (1968) and Jacky Ickx/Jackie Oliver (1969) added further wins for the GT40 before Ford withdrew from sportscar racing just as suddenly as it arrived.
The rivalry lay dormant for almost 50 years as Ferrari continued to record successes at Le Mans, taking the GTE Pro spoils in 2012 and 2014 plus three successive GT Manufacturers titles in the WEC between 2012 and 2014.
On the 50th anniversary of that first Le Mans victory, the Blue Oval returned in style in 2016, ultimately prevailing in a duel for the ages with Ferrari privateers Risi Competizione. Ford added a further two WEC wins in Fuji and Shanghai, but it was not enough to stop Ferrari claiming a fourth GT Manufacturers crown in five years.
This season the battle has ebbed and flowed, with both taking a turn at leading the points and never managing to pull out more than a 10-point advantage, thanks in part to Aston Martin taking two wins and Porsche visiting the podium five times in the first year for its new 911 RSR.
After a difficult run at Le Mans, Ferrari turned a corner at the Nürburgring and also outscored Ford in Mexico, so the Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK squad will be anxious to bounce back at COTA and put on a good show on ‘home’ turf.
If the wheel-banging antics of Mexico between Olivier Pla and James Calado are anything to go by, the rivalry has got plenty of life in it yet…
The topsy-turvy GT World Endurance Manufacturers' Championship race
Round 1: Silverstone – Ford 38, Ferrari 28
Round 2: Spa – Ferrari 72, Ford 65
Round 3: Le Mans – Ford 117, Ferrari 108
Round 4: Nürburgring – Ford 135, Ferrari 135
Round 5: Mexico – Ferrari 162, Ford 153