BRASELTON, Ga.,–Ford claimed the IMSA WeatherTech manufacturer’s championship for GTLM at Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on Saturday, the first season title for the Ford GT.
Ford Chip Ganassi Racing (Ford CGR) earned five wins this year to clinch the title for the Blue Oval in the Ford GTs third full year of competition.
“Winning the GTLM Manufacturer’s Championship is a true testament to how well this Ford GT program has developed in our third year,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance Motorsports. “This was by far our best season overall, as evidenced by our five wins from both the No. 66 and the No. 67 cars. Between the efforts of our engineers, the superb racecraft from Ford Chip Ganassi Racing and its drivers, and the efforts of our partners at Michelin, Roush Yates Engines and Multimatic, there has been a single focus among everyone this year to win a championship. I am so pleased we can bring that trophy back to share with our Ford employees around the world.”
Rushbrook will accept the trophy on behalf of Ford and Ford Performance at the season-ending banquet Sunday near Atlanta.
The No. 66 team of Joey Hand and Dirk Müller also earned the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup (TPNAEC) title for the best-performing GTLM drivers in IMSA’s endurance races (Daytona/Sebring/Watkins Glen/Petit Le Mans).
“This race is a tough race,” Hand said. “It’s a tough race track. It’s tough in traffic. We did exactly what we needed to do in the early runs to lead at the four-hour mark and then to get more points at the eighth hour to seal up the TPNAEC. That was the big thing for us today. As for the manufacturer’s championship, how many teams out here won five races this year? Winning the manufacturer’s championship for Ford is a big thing, and it just shows how strong a team we are. We work together as a team. This is not 66 and 67 when we’re back at the truck. We work together as a team, everybody has a great time with each other here. It’s a great place to race. I say it all the time. When the comfort level is high within a group of people, that’s going to produce results. And that’s what you see here.”
Ford CGR nearly nabbed the series’ GTLM driver’s championship title as well, in contention until the final hour of the race. The No. 67 team and drivers Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon finished fifth, while the No. 66 team and drivers Hand, Müller and Sébastien Bourdais were seventh.
“I think we had a really solid day,” Briscoe said. “The guys did an awesome job. I think we drove the right strategy. We got the car to the front. We got it in the position where we were fighting for the championship in the last hour. I was doing qualifying laps for half of the last stint. We’ve had a really good year. A little bit too up-and-down. We need to work a little bit on our consistency for next year, but I had a blast. I love this race. I absolutely had a blast today. The last 30 minutes were just really disappointing.”