For Max Chilton, this weekend is a rarity. He’s back home in England after seven weeks spent in the U.S., his longest stretch yet in the U.S. since he’s started to race in North America first in Indy Lights and now in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Last year at this time, the 25-year-old was making his debut in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Nissan’s ill-fated LMP1 program.
This year, he’s watching from home as his IndyCar team – Chip Ganassi Racing – is fielding a total of four Ford GTs across its UK and U.S.-operated programs at this year’s Le Mans.
Chilton’s not in the lineup across that quartet of entries but still rates the Ford’s chances pretty highly for a GTE-Pro class win, particularly following its dominant 1-2-4-5 performance in Wednesday’s provisional qualifying in class.
“They definitely seem to be doing pretty well. I knew when I saw that car the first time, I said it would win at Le Mans. It’s got that look to it,” Chilton told NBC Sports Thursday.
“I thought it would do well. They struggled a bit at the start of the year… but it’s great to see them on provisional pole. Fingers crossed… they’ve got enough cars, so there’s a good chance at one of them taking it.”
Admittedly though, Balance of Performance within the class has been a major talking point this week. The Fords tested in the 3:56 bracket at the Le Mans Test Day before finding five seconds to get to the 3:51s on Wednesday, aided a bit by a 5 kg minimum weight break reduction.
Alas, Chilton’s now got his first Indianapolis 500 under his belt – he finished 15th after starting 22nd in the No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet – he’s now added his name to the ranks of those who have started the Monaco Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500 and 24 Hours of Le Mans, at his tender age.
While he admitting to missing Le Mans a little bit, he said it is good to be home and reflect a bit following the first half of the IndyCar season.
“Part of me is missing it, yes,” Chilton said. “It’s an epic race, epic place. One of the top three, and now I’ve done all three.
“Monaco is a glamorous race, but it’s not on the same peg on Le Mans and Indy. Le Mans is so old like Indy, and it’s just got this aura about it. You’re swarmed by fans from all over Europe.
“It’s such an awesome track. I know it’s on the roads, but it feels like one massive racetrack. It’s just an awesome, awesome race. It’s the whole of an F1 season in 24 hours. The fever goes up and down all race.”
Chilton’s fresh off a long IndyCar test at Road America – his first at the pristine, picturesque 4.048-mile road course at Elkhart Lake, Wis. – and a separate post will follow on that next week to lead into the KOHLER Grand Prix (Sunday, June 26, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).