NÜRBURGRING, Germany – The Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team had a tough weekend at the Nürburgring and ultimately had to settle for fourth place for the No. 66 Ford GT of Stefan Mücke and Olivier Pla and seventh for the No. 67 car of Marino Franchitti, Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell.
“Today wasn’t our day,” said Ford Performance global director, Dave Pericak. “We had good speed in our cars but due to various circumstances it didn’t work out for us. We look forward now to the next five races where we expect to be in a position to contend and win races.”
The race started smoothly for both of the Ford GTs with Mücke taking the lead on lap one but it wasn't long before he received a firm ‘tap’ from one of the Aston Martins and dropped to third place. Throughout the opening stint Mücke had a hard-charging Gianmaria Bruni in the No. 51 Ferrari on his tail. Bruni himself soon came under intense pressure from Tincknell in the No. 67 Ford GT, who made a great move on the Italian and took the position.
After an hour of close racing, Mücke pitted to hand over the No. 66 Ford GT to Olivier Pla and on the next lap Tincknell pitted from second place so Andy Priaulx could take his turn in the No. 67 car.
“I had a really good start and had decided to sit back and watch the battle ahead so I could look after my tyres,” said Tincknell. “I then caught the pack just as it was getting interesting with the prototypes coming through and breaking us up all the time. I had a few looks at Bruni and then, going into Turn 1, he half-defended so I stayed on my normal line before diving through on the inside to pass him. This is still only fifth ever GT race so it was satisfying to pass the guy that many people say is the fastest GT racer out there. I passed Stefan after that and was then all over an Aston Martin but they have so much straight line speed they just drive away from you on the straights.”
As Priaulx hopped onboard the No. 67 Ford GT the action heated up a lot more than anyone expected. Whilst refuelling the car, a problem with a fuel valve caused a spillage, which then ignited a flash fire. This was quickly extinguished and the team set upon the car to check for damage, and just over 20 minutes later the No. 67 Ford GT was back in the race.
“We had a few issues with the car after the fire,” said Priaulx. “The turbo was damaged so we were down on power and that later turned into a misfire. I had a puncture too during my run. It was a tough stint and a tough weekend for the No. 67 car. We had really good pace in qualifying, holding provisional pole for most of the session, so we had a quick car but we were very unlucky. The good news though is that all the boys came away unscathed from the fire and that’s what is important.”
“We were fast enough this weekend for a top result in No. 67,” added Marino Franchitti. “It’s a shame we had the fire but we look forward now and hope for a better race in Mexico.”
Stefan Mücke and Olivier Pla were having a strong run in the No. 66 Ford GT, despite the early race contact.
“I had a really good start and managed to take the lead on lap one,” said Mücke. “Unfortunately (Richie) Stanaway in the Aston Martin made a late move going into Turn 1 at the start of the second lap and hit me on the front right corner. Once the Aston Martins got through it was hard to pass them due to their straight line speed so we lost a lot of time sitting behind the No. 97 car.”
Olivier Pla was up next in the No. 66 Ford GT and he had a typically strong stint, running in third place and fighting off the advances of a Ferrari. He later had an entertaining battle with Aston Martin’s Darren Turner, eventually gaining the upper hand.
In the closing stages of the race the No. 66 Ford GT was running well in third place, ready to take an assured podium finish, when they were handed a drive through penalty -- Stefan Mücke was judged to have released his belts before the car stopped during an earlier pit stop -- which dropped them to fourth place.
“Our performance today was good, despite the challenges,” said Pla. “The contact at the start hurt our pace and then Stefan was hit by the #2 Porsche which took off a dive plane so we had understeer because of that. We had some good battles and it’s a shame we couldn’t fight to the finish.”
“It was a hard race for us today,” added Mücke. “We fought hard, and it’s a shame we had the drive through. Let’s look forward now to Mexico and hope we can get a good result there.”
Round 5 of the FIA World Endurance Championship takes place in Mexico City on 3 September.