AUSTIN, TX – The No. 67 Ford GT of Marino Franchitti (GB), Andy Priaulx (GB) and Harry Tincknell (GB) finished an incident-packed sixth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship in fourth place after a gruelling six hours of racing at the Circuit of the Americas. The sister No. 66 Ford GT of Stefan Mücke (GER) and Olivier Pla (FRA) came home in seventh place after a troubled night in Texas.
“It was a tough day for us with a lot of the racing not going our way,” said Raj Nair, executive vice president, Global Product Development and chief technical officer. “The No. 66 car had a lot of speed, especially at the end but with an AC compressor issue early on we were out of the running. We need to look at the #67 car and see why we didn’t get a little more speed out of it today. So all in all a tough day but we’re looking forward to the next race and we’ll do better then.”
Despite overwhelmingly hot conditions for the start of the six-hour race, the GT battle set off at a furious pace, highlighted by a close fight between the No. 66 Ford GT of Stefan Mücke -- which held onto its third place grid position at the start -- being chased hard by the No. 97 Aston Martin, the No. 51 Ferrari, then Andy Priaulx in the No. 67 Ford GT. Unfortunately after only 20 minutes of racing, Mücke had to pit when his air conditioning failed. The German rejoined around 20 minutes later but many laps down from the GT frontrunners.
“I got a good start and managed to keep the car in P3,” said Mücke. “The conditions were difficult as it was very very hot and the track was very greasy but we managed to keep the position. Unfortunately the air conditioning wasn’t working so we had to stop and repair it, which was a real shame. After that the car was running well and our pace was strong, especially as it got a little cooler as we went into the night.’
The drama wasn’t over for the No. 66 Ford GT. Olivier Pla had a strong stint during which he posted extremely competitive lap times but with just two hours to go Mücke was hit by an LMP2 car.
“I got hit hard in the rear left corner by a prototype in a full-throttle sixth gear corner, where there is just one racing line, and had a big spin,” he explained. “Luckily I managed to avoid the barriers but we lost a lot of time there. Olivier also got hit by a prototype during his second stint. I want to say thank you to the team for giving us a strong car, which really showed its speed at the end but by then we were out of contention.”
Andy Priaulx meanwhile had a great opening stint in the No. 67 Ford GT, followed up by a solid performance from Marino Franchitti. Harry Tincknell jumped in next before Priaulx took it to the flag.
“Andy took the start for us, maintained position and had a great run,” said Tincknell. “He pitted from fifth but was only two seconds behind second place after a great nose-to-tail scrap. Marino was up next and then it was me. I was happy with my stint and couldn’t have given any more. I was catching up with third place and pulling away from fifth.
“I think we are losing a bit of time to the Ferrari during the pit stops and then on the final stint with us and the Ferrari on new tyres we just didn’t have the pace to catch them,” he continued. “Fourth is ultimately disappointing as we thought we were on for a podium today. Once again the car ran faultlessly so our aim stays the same and we will continue the battle for the podium at Fuji.”
The next round of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship takes place at Fuji in Japan on 16 October.