Ford Chip Ganassi Racing comes home to celebrate Le Mans win

Photo: Ford
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After its win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the GTE-Pro class, the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team returned home to Dearborn, Mich. and Ford’s Product Development Center to award the trophy to Ford Motor Company executives.

Ford’s release on the day is linked below:

The champagne has long since stopped flowing at the Le Mans 24 Hours, but there was still one thing left to do for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing. On Tuesday, they checked that box.

Drivers Joey Hand (US), Dirk Müller (GER), Sébastien Bourdais (FRA) and team owner Chip Ganassi joined Ford Performance executives to present the winners’ trophy to Ford Motor Company employees on Tuesday at Ford’s Product Development Center, while third-place finishers Ryan Briscoe (AUS) and Richard Westbrook (GB) joined them for a formal presentation with Ford executives, question-and-answer sessions and autograph signing near Ford’s global world headquarters.

“It’s always a great day when you can bring a celebration like our Le Mans victory back to Ford employees and be able to present this trophy to them,” said Dave Pericak, global director, Ford Performance. “This victory for was them. So many of our employees worked very hard to help us get ready to race at Le Mans, and we couldn’t have done it without them. And all of our employees, here and globally, have been behind us from the start in this effort, and we wanted to let them know how much their support meant to us.”

With his 175th victory Ganassi becomes the only owner in history to win the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500, Brickyard 400, Rolex 24 At Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring and Le Mans 24 Hours.

Ganassi attended with team partner Rob Kauffman, Chip Ganassi Racing President Steve Lauletta, Managing Director Mike Hull, IMSA sports car team principal Mike O’Gara and WEC team principal George Howard-Chappell. Multimatic Vice President Larry Holt and Doug Yates, CEO of Roush Yates Engines, also were on hand for the celebration.

Bill Ford with trophy. Photo: Ford
Bill Ford with trophy. Photo: Ford

“The new Ford GT is a spectacular car and we feel honored to be the ones to race it and represent Ford,” Ganassi said. “In just two-and-a-half years this Ford Performance Chip Ganassi Racing program has won the 12 Hours of Sebring, the Rolex 24 At Daytona, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans – among others. You can probably call that the sports car triple crown – the three biggest sportscar races in the world and Ford and Chip Ganassi Racing have made an indelible mark on all of them. I couldn’t be more proud.”

First unveiled to the media at Le Mans last year, the Ford GT’s Le Mans victory came 395 days after the car turned a wheel for the first time on May 20, 2015, at Calabogie Motorsports Park in Canada. The new Ford GT began as a secret project that only a few Ford employees knew about, but has become a company-wide point of pride.

“I think what’s important with any program you’re on, but especially this one, is you have to look back at how it started,” Hand said. “This race car started with all the employees at Ford and Ford Performance, in the special basement studio. Having a car that could race to win Le Mans and then to do it, on the day of the anniversary, is nothing short of amazing. It’s the people at Ford, from the Ford family down, to Multimatic and Chip Ganassi Racing that make it as special as it is. We all feel like we’re a family on this program. I think everyone can be really proud, on all levels of this program, about what we did.”

In all, four Ford GTs raced at Le Mans – two that campaign full-time in the global FIA World Endurance Championship, based in the UK, and two that compete in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in North America. They raced at Le Mans with the numbers 66, 67, 68, 69, in homage to the four years Ford won the storied race in a row with the Ford GT40.

The morning of the visit, Westbrook and Briscoe presented a pair of boots and gloves they were wearing at Laguna Seca, when they earned the first win for the new Ford GT, to The Henry Ford museum.

“(The win at Laguna Seca) was a great stepping stone to the success we were able to continue with going to Le Mans and beyond,” Briscoe said. “I think it was just a really important win for everyone involved, especially on the race team. Just to give us the confidence that we can get the job done and yes, we can do this and let’s go to Le Mans and do it again. We’d had a few issues in the races before, so it was just great to have an absolutely trouble-free weekend and everything was really reliable, performance was strong. It was the perfect way to send off to Le Mans.”

Both the No. 66 Ford GT (the car that won at Le Mans) and the No. 67 (the p3 finisher) were on display for employees to see.

“It’s amazing (to see the support),” Westbrook said. “At Le Mans Dave (Pericak) and Raj (Nair) were always reminding us about how popular this program is and how much support for this program there is in Dearborn, and that was a big comfort racing at Le Mans, knowing that we’re racing for a big team, not just our guys at the track, but all of those people supporting us back at Ford World Headquarters in Michigan and around the world. To come see them is really special. It reminds us of why we’re racing. We’re not just racing for ourselves, but for a whole workforce. A huge amount of people who have put a lot of work into this program. It’s really special.”

NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
McLaren Racing
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As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Formula E team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”

 

James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship car from Mercedes-EQ. – McLaren Racing

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – McLaren Racing

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”