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Ford Content To Watch Le Mans

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, June 12 2010

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

The folks at Ford Racing are watching the 24-hour race at Le Mans this weekend with interest, but not with vested interest. And that’s not likely to change in the near future.

“We have a plate full, honestly,” Jamie Allison, head of Ford Racing, said during a telephone call this week when asked about returning to France with a factory effort. “With NASCAR, NHRA, drifting, rally and off-road racing, we have a full, full plate.”

Ford is not totally absent from Le Mans this weekend. It does have a couple of cars in the event – Ford GTs, to be exact.

But those cars are being fielded by privateer teams – VDS and Matech. And, they are competing in the lower-profile GT1 class.

Still, Fords are Fords and these Fords are getting some factory support.

“They are privateer but as we do with all enthusiasts in all forms of racing,” Allison said, “when they need access to technical data or they need, in this case, access to the frame because you cannot just buy a GT frame, so we helped them acquire the frames and, obviously, converting to the 5-litre, normally aspirated engine for that car.

“So, we are there with technical support, we are there with access to information, but it is a privateer undertaking and a privateer effort.”

Also there, in a way, is NASCAR. The engines used in the GTs come out of the Roush-Yates engine program.

But that is a long way from Ford’s involvement in Le Mans in the 1960s.

In the second half of that decade, Ford was the story at Le Mans. It came in with a company mandate to beat Ferrari – whose boss, Enzo Ferrari had issued Ford a verbal slap in the face when he vetoed the Detroit company’s effort to buy his company in 1963 – at the world’s most important endurance race.

Allison knows all about that.

“It’s incredible what happened between Henry Ford (II) and Enzo Ferrari and what led to creation of the program and going to Le Mans,” Allison said. “Henry Ford came down and said you WILL win. He was obsessed with winning.”

After a couple years of struggle at Le Mans, Ford did win with the GT40. Four years in a row, in fact (1966-69).

“We’re very proud of the GT, we’re very proud of our history” at Le Mans, Allison said.

But a return with a factory effort?

“Every era has its milestone moments. Le Mans is a rich tradition and a rich history that will live forever. But for now, we enjoy what our private teams are doing and we are kind of basking in their glory. We are kind of in it, but with out having to under take a full factory effort and our plate is full,” Allison said.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, June 12 2010
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