The WEC-entered Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs found their spiritual home in Japan today, taking both first and second place at the ‘6 Hours of Fuji’. The two Ford GTs battled hard throughout the race, held in the foothills of the magnificent Mt. Fuji, not giving an inch of tarmac to each other during six hours of flat out racing.
This is the first win for the WEC-entered team, which is headed by Team Principal George Howard-Chappell who said: “This is a fabulous result after quite a long dry spell so to then get a 1-2 is a great tribute to the hard work of all four drivers, the team and to the support we receive from the Ford team around the world. It’s a great result, a great lift and it helps us in the championship. We can now go to Shanghai and Bahrain hoping to repeat the success.”
Both Ford GTs started the race from the front row of the GTE grid after taking pole position (#66) and second place (#67) in yesterday’s qualifying session but it was Harry Tincknell in the #67 Ford GT who took the lead at the start of today’s six-hour race.
“I knew that the first corner would be vital, even though it was a six-hour race,” said Tincknell. “I was pleased that I managed to pass Olivier (Pla) on the inside going into Turn One, then once the race settled down we maintained a very even pace between the two Ford GTs.”
After a clean start the Ford GTs ran in formation as they steadily built up a gap to the Ferrari in third place. After a fundamentally trouble-free first half, Tincknell took a hit from a GTE Am class Porsche, which temporarily handed the race lead to Pla in the #66 Ford GT. That and a small spin for Pla, as he chased the #67 car in the later stages of the race, were the only anxious moments for the team. It was a hard-fought, flat-out, six-hour dash to the chequered flag and Ford came out on top!
“Today’s result was great for Ford, for the team, for Multimatic and for Chip Ganassi,” said Priaulx. “It’s a young team, it’s a new team and today they were faultless with the pit stops. It was a tough race as we never had a big gap to the #66 car. Every lap of the race felt like a qualifying lap. We made no mistakes and just stroked the car home. The pit stops were brilliant, Harry (Tincknell) did a great job and I’m delighted we finally got our first win. We’ve had some really good performances this year but we haven’t had the result we all deserve. This one is for the team.”
“Your first win for a manufacturer is always special but with everything we’ve been through this season it’s a massive relief,” added Tincknell. “We’ve pushed like hell at every race this year and it just hasn’t gone our way for a number of reasons. I felt nervous going into the race as I knew this was our big opportunity and I had to grab it with both hands. To come away with the win is amazing but it was hard work! We had to push all the way through, leaving nothing in reserve so we will enjoy this moment.”
After taking pole position yesterday the drivers of the #66 Ford GT were fired up for this race but the result was decided at the first corner.
“It wasn’t an easy one today,” said Pla. “For some reason my line didn’t go as fast as the right-hand line so I lost the advantage of pole position at the first corner. From then on we were so evenly matched it was hard to pass the other car. I lost a lot of time behind an Aston Martin in my last stint and I had to push so hard to catch up I had a small spin. Well done to the team, to the guys in #67. Everyone did a perfect job.”
“A 1-2 finish is great for Ford, great for the whole team,” said Mücke. “It was a long time coming. It was one of those races where you are doing qualifying lap after qualifying lap. There was no room for error, no lifting, just pushing hard. Unfortunately we were unlucky at the start but everything was perfect after that and it was a great job from everyone.”
Just two races remain on the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship schedule: Shanghai and Bahrain. Ford Chip Ganassi Racing will continue to fight until the final chequered flag in Bahrain.