Ford GT40: The Ferrari Beater

The famed GT40 was born out of a bitter, legendary rivalry between Ford and Ferrari to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Le Mans is the oldest active sports car endurance race and has been held near the French town of Le Mans annually since 1923. Designed to test manufacturer’s abilities at making reliable sports cars not just fast ones, it’s a grueling 24 hour endurance race to test both man and machine. The event is widely regarded as the most prestigious race in the world, an opinion Henry Ford II and Enzo Ferrari shared.

Henry Ford II in the Netherlands.

After receiving word that Ferrari were willing to sell the company to Ford, Henry Ford II, knowing the threat they held at competitions immediately set about talks to purchase them. A deal was very nearly made, however Ferrari cut backed out last minute upon hearing the terms of sale involved included loosing control of their racing division. This was a move by Ford to remove the threat it posed to them in competitions.

Enraged the deal fell through, Henry Ford II vowed to beat Ferrari at Le Mans.

Fords enemy, the Ferrari 330p3 Author: Flibble CC BY 2.5
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Ford began searching for a team able to handle a project of this caliber. Lotus and Cooper were considered but ruled out due to various factors. Ford made a deal with Eric Broadley, Lola Cars’ owner and chief designer who had experience with Ford V8s in mid engine configuration. The deal was signed for Broadley’s personal involvement for one year on the project. The team unveiled the first GT40 on the 16th March 1963. The ’40’ standing for its height in inches. The car was powered by a 4.2 liter V8.

The GT40 first raced at the Nurburgring 1000km but retired early due to mechanical failure. After suffering further disappointing placing in its next races, the legendary Carroll Shelby was assigned to take control of the program. The GT40’s first victory was from Shelby’s first race with the car at the 1965 Daytona 2000.

Ford GT40 MKII. Author: Iain A Wanless CC BY 2.0

After suffering a series of defeats Shelby upgraded the MK1 GT40 to the MK2 GT40. This new designation came with a NASCAR 7.0 liter V8 modified to meet the race requirements. With this newer MK2 GT40, Ford raced into the history books and finally beat Ferrari at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans with a stunning finish, crossing the line with a 1-2-3 GT40 finish. This was a first for Ford and a first for an American car company.

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A legend was born, and the GT would continue to win in another 3 consecutive years last winning in 1969. Ferrari never won Le Mans again. Ford would not return to compete until 2016 where they came full circle, earning a first place finish in the breathtaking 2017 Ford GT.

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With two new successors to the original GT40, they may be newer and more advanced, but the GT40 goes down in history as the car that beat Ferrari.

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Ford Cosworth DFV – The V8 That Changed F1

The Cosworth DFV is not the most successful engine to run on an F1 circuit, nor is it the most powerful engine to ever be put in an F1 car, but the impact that this V8 had on the world of racing still makes it a contender for one of the best engines to ever come from the sport.

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In 1965, Colin Chapman began his hunt for a new engine to put in his Team Lotus racing cars. The search was brought about after the FIA hiked the maximum engine capacity from 1.5 to 3 litres, something Coventry Climax, Lotus’s engine supplier, did not want to cater to.  The Lotus founder headed to the London based automotive engineering firm still in its infancy – Cosworth. 

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