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NOV 23, 2015 | Homestead, Florida

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Introduces GT Drivers For 2016 IMSA Season

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Ford Performance and Ford Chip Ganassi Racing announced that Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook, Dirk Müller, and Joey Hand will be the driver lineup for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2016.  They will compete in the all-new Ford GT, which will debut at the Rolex 24 in Daytona Beach, FL.  

RAJ NAIR, Group VP and Chief Technical Officer, Global Product Development, Ford Motor Co. 
– CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF THE FORD GT TO THE FORD MOTOR CO.?  “First, let me thank you guys for attending today.  It’s a big day for us in the next step in the development of the GT race program.  I also want to thank Jim France, Mike Helton, Brent Dewar and Steve Phelps for supporting us here at the announcement.  The GT program is a big deal for Ford.  Back in 1966, Ford Motor Company went to Le Mans with the Ford GT, came in 1-2-3, and the next four years we won, so it was a very proud moment for the company and it’s a big moment in the heritage of the company.  Obviously, next year, 2016, is the 50th anniversary of that win and we decided that we really wanted to do something very special to commemorate that, so we first announced the return of a Ford GT, a new production vehicle, to show at the Detroit Auto Show.  Obviously, the vehicle is a very good base for a race car, so we also announced that we were going to bring Ford back to GT racing with its debut at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and then obviously going to Le Mans.  So it’s a proud moment for the company and really proud about this next step of announcing our driver lineup for the IMSA series.”

CHIP GANASSI, Owner, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing – WHAT WAS IMPORTANT TO YOU IN TERMS OF FINDING THE RIGHT DRIVERS FOR THIS TEAM?  “Let me start by saying what an honor it is to be chosen by Ford to take them back 50 years later to Le Mans.  When word snuck out that we were involved in this program, I think between myself and Mike Hull we had about 40 drivers contact us and I think it goes without saying, as you all know, at this level of motorsport you now that all drivers have a lot of talent and a lot of drivers have the tools that are necessary to take them into a program like this.  They have the experience.  They have the tools.  They have the will.  They have the talent.  I think Mike and I have had the pleasure over the years of working with a lot of great drivers and I think when you look at the guys behind me one of the first things I look for, as many of you know already, in drivers is if you take the fact that they have the talent and all the tools necessary, I kind of go to heart.  I want to know what kind of heart they have, and I think in a program like this, and obviously in endurance racing, you want to hand the car off like you want it handed to you, and you have to perform day in and day out in a very unselfish manner.  I don’t think we could have picked four better drivers to do that.  Just yesterday unannounced they had a little team building exercise off of Key Largo on a fishing boat, the four of them, and Müller caught his first fish ever, so I thought that was a good team building exercise.  We’re happy to have these four guys with us.  They show a lot of heart and they have the talent obviously, and we’re looking forward to beginning racing with them in late January.”

DAVE PERICAK, Global Director, Ford Performance – THE CAR NUMBERS WILL BE 66 AND 67.  CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE TESTING SO FAR?  “The Ford GT was probably one of the best-kept secrets in the industry, but I think making this announcement this morning of the drivers is probably the worst, but the guys behind me have definitely earned their place on this team and we wanted to make an official announcement to our fans and to the media.  As Chip mentioned, when we started the program we had an enormous amount of interest from all drivers that wanted to be a part of the program.  The selection process was extremely difficult.  There’s a lot of great talent out there.  The guys behind me are definitely who we feel are the best drivers to represent us and the team.  They’ve already been working well together.  They’ve been out testing already – a lot of people already know that.  They’ve been working with the engineering teams from both Ford and Ganassi, so everything is going extremely well as we march towards a very exciting time, debuting the Ford GT at the Rolex 24 in Daytona in January.  We’re excited about that and then shortly after that we’re going to debut it in the WEC Series at Silverstone in April, so we’re really excited about that.”

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JOEY HAND, Ford GT Driver – CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE PROGRAM AND THE PROGRESS YOU’VE SEEN OVER THE LAST FEW MONTHS?  “I’m very proud to be part of this program.  I always wanted to drive for Chip and I got the opportunity last year and now to be with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing is a big deal.  Clearly, this is a big deal.  This GT car is a great-looking car.  Everybody seems to love it and I think it’s cool to see how Ford has kind of honored the history of the old GT40 and now bringing the new technology of today.  When you see the car it’s cool-looking.  It’s got a great shape and great aerodynamic lines.  It’s gonna be a great race car for us and the testing has gone really well.  I’ve driven five or six different test days with it from the beginning.  As soon as you get in the car everybody asks, ‘What does it feel like?’  It feels like a race car.  It feels good.  The car doesn’t do anything weird, which is a very good start for a brand new car.  We’re excited about it.  Racing is a lot about team and I know being with Chip Ganassi and, fortunately for me, a whole year at Ford, we have a great team behind us from everybody at Ford to everybody at Chip Ganassi.  They’ve done a great job putting together all those people and it’s a pleasure to be back with my old buddy, Dirk Müller, and to get to know Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook, it’s gonna be a fun year that’s for sure.”

DIRK MÜLLER, Ford GT Driver – WHY DID YOU WANT TO BE PART OF THIS PROGRAM?  “Just talking about it makes me feel really, really honored.  I’m having goosebumps just thinking about it and it’s a great, great program.  It’s 50 years of the great win in ’66 next year, and I’m still learning all the names from Ford and Chip Ganassi Racing, and at the same time I’m already home.  It’s such a great family to work with and that makes me really feel great.”

RICHARD WESTBROOK, Ford GT Driver – WHAT WAS IMPORTANT TO YOU TO COME INTO THIS FORD GT PROGRAM?  “I feel very proud to be a part of this program.  I think, for me, the chance to repeat the success the Ford GT had in the sixties is absolutely huge.  Going into one of the most competitive classes in motorsport is a massive, massive task, but the work that Ford Performance has done already is just incredible.  I think we’re with the best team out there, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing.  It’s just such an exciting project to be part of and, as I said, I feel very, very proud and can’t wait to go green flag racing in Daytona.”

RYAN BRISCOE, Ford GT Driver – CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THIS SPORTS CAR TEAM AND THE OTHER DRIVERS YOU’RE TEAMED WITH?  “It’s just such a huge honor and to echo what these guys said it’s a massive deal.  I’m so proud to be a part of the program.  I’ve got a lot of familiar faces at Chip Ganassi Racing.  It really is like family.  We’ve known each other for 10 years now, so Chip’s a great man.  He runs an unbelievable race team and it’s a huge honor to be a part of.  It’s great to be a part of Ford now and going racing next year at Le Mans is gonna be huge.”

Q&A SESSION

RAJ NAIR CONTINUED
 – CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE INVOLVEMENT OF MULTIMATIC AND HOW IT DEVELOPED THE CAR?  “Multimatic is a great partner for us at Ford.  We’ve had a long relationship with them both on the production vehicle side as well as on the performance side.  Clearly, they brought a lot of expertise into when we were thinking about doing the GT into some aspects of other work they had done in this vein of niche and supercars.  The fact that they bring the fiber carbon expertise.  They bring the race expertise.  They’re a known entity to Ford, a long standing partner, so they were really a perfect choice as a partner to develop both the road car as well as the race car and probably unique, certainly in my career, this is one of the first times I can remember where we’re actually developing both cars in parallel.  You really have to have the right team and the right partners, whether it be Chip Ganassi Racing or Multimatic or Roush Yates Engines or Roush Industries – all of those guys that get both sides of that to be able to achieve that.  I couldn’t be happier with the partners we have, including Multimatic.”

CHIP GANASSI CONTINUED – “I think also when I first got involved in this program one of the first names that came to my mind to get involved in something like this was somebody I met years ago – a guy by the name of George Howard-Chappell – and George was, in fact, working for Multimatic at the time and was already on the program, so it sort of just made a natural thing to have them along as a partner in the program.”