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Ford v Ferrari: the real story of the GT40 at Le Mans

Ford versus Ferrari at Le Mans 1966

With Matt Damon and Christian Bale due to star in the upcoming ‘Ford v Ferrari’ feature film, we take a look at the on-track history that led to this famous feud. This is the tale of when Detroit fought Maranello at Le Mans.

The start of the ordeal

Ford versus Ferrari at Le Mans 1966

It counts as one of the most notorious stories in motorsport, and it all began due to a dispute between Henry Ford II and Enzo Ferrari.

Ford had looked to buy the Italian manufacturer during 1963, yet found Ferrari unwilling to step away from the Indianapolis 500. This would have placed the two brands in direct competition on track.

As a result, the deal failed. Henry Ford II then directed his company to enact revenge on Ferrari at Le Mans.

Ferrari was the class act to beat at Le Mans

Ford versus Ferrari at Le Mans 1966

The Italian brand had established total dominance at Le Mans during the 1960s. Cars wearing the famous Prancing Horse badge had won every edition of the 24 hour race from 1960 onwards.

This included two victories taken by Belgian driver Oliver Gendebien, pictured here behind the wheel of a Ferrari 250 TR 59/60 on his way to glory in 1960. Beating the Scuderia was going to take serious commitment and engineering effort from Ford.

1964 Ford GT40 prototype

Ford versus Ferrari at Le Mans 1966

Ford initially courted Lola Cars, Lotus, and Cooper for a partner to build the new Le Mans racer. Lola was eventually chosen, partly because the Lola Mk 6 race car already made use of a Ford V8 engine.

Lola donated two Mk 6 chassis from its factory in Slough, while Ford set about creating a team to develop and build its new race machine.

1964 Ford GT40 prototype

Ford versus Ferrari at Le Mans 1966

The newly created Ford Advanced Vehicles team set about the development of a new racer, based at its own British factory.

Early prototypes of the GT40 made use of a mid-mounted 255 cubic inch (4.2-litre) Ford V8, whilst later finished cars would feature a 289 cubic inch (4.7-litre) unit. Famously, the GT40 name came from the overall height of the new race car being just 40 inches.

Ford GT40 team transporters ready for the off

Ford versus Ferrari at Le Mans 1966

Ford had taken only seven months to create the new GT40, with the completed car being shown to journalists on April 1st 1964. John Wyer was put in charge of running the Ford Advanced Vehicles team for the year.

The rush to get the new cars finished meant the GT40 would miss the season-opening Sebring 12 Hours race. Instead, the inaugural use of the car in anger would be at the first Le Mans test, less than three weeks after the cars were presented to the media.

1964 becomes a year to quickly forget

Ford versus Ferrari at Le Mans 1966

Making a race debut at the gruelling Nürburging 1,000km in 1964, the driver pairing of Phil Hill and Bruce McLaren managed to qualify second on the grid. However, a suspension failure meant the GT40 failed to finish the race.

This would set the tone for the year, with 1964 at Le Mans a dismal failure. All three of the Fords would retire with mechanical issues, while Ferrari clocked up another win.

1965 shows promising signs for the future

Ford versus Ferrari at Le Mans 1966

After the disappointment of 1964, Ford switched management of the GT40 to Carroll Shelby for 1965. This came after his notable successes with the Ford-powered Daytona Coupe.

Victory came immediately, with a win for Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby at the Daytona 2,000km race, with Bob Bondurant and Richie Ginther taking third in a sister GT40.

Yet the remainder of 1965 would prove fruitless, with no more wins for Ford. Le Mans would again see all the GT40s fail to make the finish.

1966 Ford GT40 Mk I road car

Ford versus Ferrari at Le Mans 1966

Whilst the early GT40s might not have proved to be successful on track, road car versions still rolled out of the factory, with the first example delivered to the United States in early 1966.

The Mk I road cars featured softer suspension, quieter exhausts, plus options such as air-conditioning and leather seats. However, they still featured a 335hp V8 engine.

A new hope: the 1966 Ford GT40 Mk II

Ford versus Ferrari at Le Mans 1966

Whereas the Mk II may have looked similar to its predecessor, beneath the bodywork was a host of changes. In came a 427 cubic inch (7.0-litre) Ford FE engine, with an exhaust system nicknamed ‘a bundle of snakes’ for its elaborate design.

Kar-Kraft also modified the chassis from the original British-designed Mk I version, using higher strength steel. Extra robustness was added with upgraded suspension components, while a strengthened gearbox was also used. This featured just four speeds, instead of the five cogs found in the Mk I.

1966 Ford GT40 Mk II

Ford versus Ferrari at Le Mans 1966

Ford also dismissed Carrol Shelby as overall manager for the GT40 programme. Instead, priority was given to the Holman-Moody outfit who were responsible for running Ford’s NASCAR efforts. Henry Ford II was adamant that the GT40 must win in 1966.

However, the Shelby American team did continue as an official factory outfit, retaining Ken Miles as one of their drivers. The new GT40s would finish 1-2-3-5 in the ’66 Daytona 24 Hours, proving the changes were right and setting Ford on the path to glory.

1966 Ford GT40 Mk II ‘X-1’ Roadster

Ford versus Ferrari at Le Mans 1966

Ford also experimented with a potential for an open-top version of the GT40 during the 1966 season. Initially created for Bruce McLaren Racing in 1965 with a low-drag windscreen, on return to Ford the one-off roadster was updated to Mk II specification for Shelby American.

It’s only race event came at the 1966 12 Hours of Sebring where, after experimenting with automatic gearboxes during practice, a manual transmission was fitted for the race. When the engine of the lead GT40 Mk II seized, the ‘X-1’ Roadster of Miles and Ruby slipped through to victory.

1966 Ferrari 330 P3

Ford versus Ferrari at Le Mans 1966

With all the attention now on winning the Le Mans 24 Hours, Ford would face tough competition at the 1966 race.

Ferrari had updated its line of prototype racers, creating the new 330 P3. Thanks to fuel injection it now had more horsepower, and was built in both closed- and open-cockpit versions for the epic endurance event.

1966 Porsche 906/6 LH

Ford versus Ferrari at Le Mans 1966

Although Ford and Ferrari were the main contenders in 1966, Porsche would also enter a small army of 906 racers at Le Mans.

A total of six 906 machines would contest the race, including three of the brand-new LH ‘lang heck’ prototype versions. Recent victory on the Targa Florio showed the potential of the Porsche.

Strength in numbers

Ford versus Ferrari at Le Mans 1966

Keen to beat Ferrari at its own game, Ford entered a total of 15 Mk II GT40s for Le Mans in 1966. Eight were accepted for the race, with Shelby American running three cars. Holman-Moody also fielded another trio, whilst Alan Mann Racing would be responsible for the final two Mk II machines.

Qualifying demonstrated the performance of the GT40 Mk II, with the top four places all taken by Fords. With all eight GT40s inside the top 12, the strategy of total domination looked to be working.

Drama on the road to tomorrow

Ford versus Ferrari at Le Mans 1966

Ratcheting up the pressure on the Ford teams was Henry Ford II, acting as official starter for Le Mans in 1966. After the first lap his cars were in the lead, but the coming hours would see tense battle between Ford and Ferrari.

Overnight rain dampened the performance advantage of the big V8 engine in the Fords. However, the Ferrari prototypes began to suffer from overheating, dropping them out of contention.

Controversial photo finish for the win

Ford versus Ferrari at Le Mans 1966

By halfway through the race, Ford MK IIs occupied the top four positions, with Mk I GT40s occupying 5th and 6th. Yet even then, victory was far from secure. The no.3 Mk II, driven by Dan Gurney, blew a head gasket from racing too hard with the no.1 car of Ken Miles and Denny Hulme.

By late morning Mk II GT40s occupied the top three positions, and Ford Racing director Leo Bebbe attempted to engineer a dead heat at the end of the race. Ken Miles was told to slow down to allow the no.2 car of Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon to catch up.

Miles was reported to be unhappy with the contrived photo finish, and lifted off just as the cars reached the finish line. This handed the McLaren/Amon car victory, with Fords filling the other podium places.

Mission accomplished for Ford at Le Mans

Ford versus Ferrari at Le Mans 1966

In just three years Henry Ford II had achieved his goal of beating Ferrari at Le Mans. The Italian company would never take an outright win at the French event again, with the Blue Oval ready to keep coming back.

Ford would go on to claim the P2 category of the 1966 World Sportscar Championship, further cementing its dominance.

1967 Ford GT40 Mk III road car

Ford versus Ferrari at Le Mans 1966

With the GT40 race car cleaning up on track, a bespoke road-going version was now being readied for the street. Unlike previous road-legal GT40s, the Mk III had specific features to make it suited to the highway.

An elongated rear gave access to a luggage compartment, whilst the bumpers gained small chrome overriders. Unlike the race cars, there was no bigger engine, with power still coming from the 289 cubic inch (4.2-litre) V8. Only seven examples of the Mk III were built, with just three in right-hand drive.

Tragedy of the 1967 Ford GT40 J-car

Ford versus Ferrari at Le Mans 1966

Despite the success of the Mk II GT40, Ford didn’t rest on its laurels and set about developing the car even further. With power now sufficient, experimental aerodynamic changes to maximise the muscle were made throughout 1966 and 1967, along with a lightened chassis.

Tragedy struck during a test session, when Ken Miles was killed in a high-speed accident at Riverside International Raceway, with blame laid at the lack of downforce from the aero modifications.

1967 Ford GT40 Mk IV

Ford versus Ferrari at Le Mans 1966

The experimental flat-topped roof of the J-car was dropped, but the resulting Mk IV still managed to look distinctive. Lengthened and streamlined to achieve a higher top speed, the Mk IV also featured the lightened chassis.

The death of Ken Miles was not in vain, with a high-strength roll cage also being fitted. Although the Mk IV only entered two races, it claimed a 100% success rate with victories in the 1967 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans.

1968 Ford GT40 Mk I Le Mans

Ford versus Ferrari at Le Mans 1966

Concerned by the high speeds seen during the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans, for 1968 engine sizes were capped at 5.0 litres for cars in the Sports class by the FIA. This ruled out the Mk II and Mk IV versions of the GT40, but meant the earlier, smaller-engined Mk I was still eligible.

Now with reliability on its side, the Mk I took overall victory in 1968 driven by Pedro Rodriguez and Lucien Bianchi. It would repeat the same feat in 1969 with Jackie Ickx and Jackie Oliver driving, taking the total number of outright Le Mans wins for the GT40 to four in a row.

Ford GT wins 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours

Ford versus Ferrari at Le Mans 1966

Fast forward several decades and Ford found once again on the top step of the podium at Le Mans.

Living up to the reputation of its GT40 predecessors, the new GT race car, ran by Chip Ganassi Racing, took an impressive victory at Le Mans in 2016 in the LMGTE Pro class. Coming exactly 50 years after the first Le Mans win for the GT40, Ford was unsurprisingly ecstatic about the result.

2017 Ford GT ‘66 Heritage Edition

Ford versus Ferrari at Le Mans 1966

To mark the Le Mans wins 50th anniversary, Ford also announced a special edition of a car that hadn’t even actually started production yet. Remembering that historic 1-2-3 victory at the Circuit du Sarthe in 1966, the Heritage Edition featured a colour scheme inspired by the no.2 GT40 driven by Chris Amon and Bruce McLaren.

A Shadow Black exterior – available in either gloss or matte finish – was combined with silver stripes and alloy wheels in gold satin. Inside is a leather-wrapped steering wheel, along with extra carbon fibre and a limited edition plaque.

Ford captures the Le Mans-winning GT40 in Lego

Ford versus Ferrari at Le Mans 1966

Along with the modern interpretation of the successful 1966 GT40, Ford also created a miniature Lego version. This had the benefit of being considerably cheaper than the full-size GT supercar, and produced in much larger numbers.

Paired with a Lego version of the 2016 Le Mans-winning Ford GT, the classic 1966 GT40 also comes with a retro driver minifigure. Fans can decide for themselves whether they want it to be Chris Amon or Bruce McLaren.

2019 Ford at Le Mans with historic liveries

Ford versus Ferrari at Le Mans 1966

Ford contested the Le Mans 24 Hour race again each year until 2019, which marked the final year of competition for the GT racer. However, the Chip Ganassi Team would be unable to replicate the success seen in 2016.

Not even racing with retro-inspired liveries for the 2019 edition of the 24 Hours race was enough to help clinch LMGTE Pro victory. Ford would manage fourth in class, with Ferrari taking first place on the podium.

Sunset on the Ford GT Le Mans project

Ford versus Ferrari at Le Mans 1966

In fact, Ferrari has continued to dominate the World GT Manufacturers’ Championship since 2012, taking five titles in seven seasons. It means that more than 55 years after Henry Ford II declared war on the Ferrari at Le Mans, the battle is still seemingly far from over.

The scheduled cinematic release date for ‘Ford v Ferrari’ is now November 15th 2019. It means only a few more months of waiting for fans to witness the recreation of this special chapter in motorsport history.

Mercedes F1 in Gran Turismo

You can now drive Lewis Hamilton’s 2017 F1 car in Gran Turismo Sport

Mercedes F1 in Gran Turismo

What could be the ultimate addition to the ultimate driving simulator? What is arguably one of the ultimate racing cars of the moment would be a good start: Lewis Hamilton’s 2017 championship-winning F1 car, the Mercedes AMG F1 W08 EQ Power+.

Well, you can now channel your inner F1 World Champion courtesy of the July update to Gran Turismo Sport – which also includes screaming rotary-powered Mazda 787B and the singing V12 Ferrari 250 GTO.

The W08 with Hamilton at the wheel won 11 of the 20 Grands Prix in 2017, helping Lewis add his fourth title to his record. The 787B, however, was made famous by a single race in 1991 – the Le Mans 24 hours – marking the first ever win of the world-famous enduro by a Japanese marque. It was only joined when Toyota took their maiden win at La Sarthe earlier this year.

Other quirky additions, the likes of which the franchise has been regularly celebrated in the past, are the Ford GT LM Spec II Test Car, the 2015 Honda S660, the 1991 Honda Beat and the 2002 Daihatsu Copen Active Top. All of these can now be enjoyed on a brand new scenic race track, the Circuit de Sainte-Croix.

An addition we suspect will be less popular in a community on edge about micro-transactions is the ability to buy cars under 2,000,000 credits in the PlayStation Store for real money.

But in all, it’s a worthy update to what is shaping up to be the best instalment of the franchise since Gran Turismo 4 of 2004.

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‘Mad Friday’ at Le Mans: supercars and classics take over town

The Le Mans 24 Hours is one of motorsport’s most exciting events and an annual pilgrimage for petrolheads. The main action takes place on the Circuit de la Sarthe, but there’s plenty to see in the surrounding towns and villages. We went car-spotting in nearby Arnage on the evening before the race, discovering a truly multinational mix of metal.

Citroen DS

We start with something quintessentially French: a Citroen DS. The ‘Goddess’ (Déesse in French) was decades ahead of its time when launched in 1955 and still looks futuristic today. Its chief innovation was hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension, which offered agile handling (famously helping Charles de Gaulle flee an assassination attempt) and a pillowy-soft ride. Hydraulics also control the gearbox, clutch, brakes and power steering. 

Citroen 2CV

Quintessentially French, you say? How about a Citroen 2CV in retro Le Mans livery? The Deux Chevaux was never much of a racer – early cars produced 9hp and topped out at 40mph –but it helped mobilise France after World War Two. By the time production ended in 1990, more than 3.8 million had been made.

Alpine A110

Representing modern France is the achingly desirable Alpine A110. This critically-acclaimed compact coupe has a mid-mounted 252hp engine, driving the rear wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Spotted here in traditional Alpine Blue, its styling is inspired by the original A110 of 1961. Still want that Porsche Cayman?

Mercedes-Benz SL

Representing Germany in Arnage is this fabulous Mercedes-Benz SL. The elegant lines of the ‘Pagoda’ (W113) SL – combined with its reputation for reliability and typically Teutonic build quality – make it a perennial favourite with the classic car cognoscenti. Famous owners have included John Lennon, Sofia Loren, Kate Moss and David Dimbleby.

Porsche 911

Equally timeless, although rather more modern, here’s a ‘993’ Porsche 911 Carrera. This version of the Neunelfer was the last with an air-cooled engine and offers a wonderfully analogue driving experience. Produced from 1994-1998, it’s widely regarded as the best of the breed.

Ferrari 512 TR

Only at Le Mans would you spot a Ferrari 512 TR casually wedged between bollards. Representing Italy in this high-octane street scene, the 1991-1994 TR is effectively a facelifted Testarossa. Its 434hp flat-12 gulps air through those signature side strakes, propelling the Ferrari to 62mph in 4.8 seconds and 198mph. 

Alfa Romeo 4C

It might only have four cylinders and 240hp, but the Alfa Romeo 4C looks as exotic as any Ferrari. It also boasts a supercar-style carbon fibre chassis that weighs a mere 65kg. The two-seat 4C has been criticised for its twitchy, unpredicatable handling, although aftermarket modifications are available to mitigate this.

Ferrari F430

Prancing horses were everywhere in Arnage. This F430 wears the bonnet stripes of the hardcore 430 Scuderia, plus what appear to be 360 Challenge Stradale alloys. The 2004-2009 F430 was the first Ferrari with an F1-style ‘manettino’ controller on the steering wheel, which allows the driver to adjust drivetrain, chassis and stability control settings.

Jaguar Mk2

Time for the best of British, starting – appropriately enough – with a Mk2 Jag. This fast and capable saloon had a choice of straight-six engines, with the flagship 3.8 boasting a lusty 220hp. Launched in 1959, it was frequently spotted patrolling Britain’s first motorways. The Mk2 was replaced by the XJ6 in 1968. 

Caterham 7

The Caterham 7 is a very different type of British classic. The back-to-basics roadster has evolved since 1973 and was originally based on the Lotus 7. This French-registered car wears green and yellow Lotus colours, although much of its aluminium bodywork is unpainted.

Ford Thunderbird

Lastly, there’s the American contingent. This Ford Thunderbird looked effortlessly cool stopped outside a cafe in Arnage, its plentiful chrome gleaming in the evening sun. A rare example of the first-generation T-Bird (built from 1955-1957), it packs a 5.1-litre V8 and two-speed automatic ‘box. 

Chevrolet Corvette

The loudest cars on-track at Le Mans in 2018 are the two Corvette C7.Rs, but we’ll wager this roadgoing C5 ‘Vette – fully accessorised in Corvette Racing livery – still sounds pretty savage. The C5’s ‘LS1’ 5.7-litre V8 packs a 350hp punch, meaning 0-60mph in 4.5 seconds and 175mph flat-out. 

Ford Mustang

Well, motorsport fans certainly have great taste in cars. We finish with a classic Ford Mustang, a vehicle that epitomises the American dream. First launched in 1962, the iconic Mustang is now into its sixth generation. Like the Le Mans 24 Hours, it’s become part of popular culture, and a source of ongoing inspiration.

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Ferrari 488 Pista Piloti Ferrari

Ferrari 488 Pista Piloti Ferrari is a supercar for racing drivers

Ferrari 488 Pista Piloti FerrariOn the eve of the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours, Ferrari has revealed a special new Piloti Ferrari specification for the 488 Pista. Why the debut at Le Mans? Because only Ferrari owners involved in the firm’s various motorsport programmes will be allowed to order one…

This includes Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado, who will be driving AF Corse’s number 51 car this weekend, still revelling in their status as 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) title-winning drivers and manufacturers.

Fittingly, the two drivers have helped reveal the 488 Pista Piloti Ferrari over at the Le Mans 24 Hours.

The Piloti Ferrari 488 Pista, created by the firm’s Tailor Made division, has been inspired by the two champs’ winning racer. The bespoke livery in the tricolore of the Italian flag has been developed from their 488 GTE racing car; it even carries the FIA WEC logo and the ‘PRO’ logo that identifies the class it raced in.

The tricolore continues down the sides, which also boast a race number: the launch car carries the 51 of the title-winning drivers, but clients will be able to pick their own number.

Other exterior differentiations include a matt black finish for the S-Duct, vent surrounds and carbon fibre ‘dovetail’ rear spoiler. Colours? Pick from four suitably motorsport-inspired hues: Rosso Corsa, Blu Tour De France, Nero Daytona and Argento Nürburgring.

Inside? More Italian flag inspiration: the black Alcantara seats contain a special perforated tricolore centre section and, brilliantly, the national colours also feature on the gearshift paddles.

Ferrari 488 Pista Piloti Ferrari

Floor mats are given an Italian flag edge too (and they’re made from a “special technical fabric”), while the number chosen by the owner for the outside is replicated on the base of the steering wheel. All the carbon fibre elements are also finished in matt, and there is a special identification plate and carbon fibre door sills to finish it off.

And the engine? The same 720hp 3.9-litre turbo V8 that’s just been voted best engine in the world in the 2018 International Engine of the Year Awards – for the third consecutive year.

Planning a Brexit? Sailing to France to be more relaxing in 2019

Brittany Ferries Honfleur

Motorsport fans driving to Le Mans in 2019 should enjoy a more relaxing trip across the English Channel, with the news that Brittany Ferries is investing in a new LNG-powered ferry. The Honfleur – which will operate on the company’s busiest route from Portsmouth to Caen – is scheduled to arrive in spring 2019.

At 42,400 gross tons, the Honfleur – named after a harbour town in Normandy – is larger than the ferry operator’s current flagship, the Pont-Aven, making it the largest vessel on its fleet.

Free wifi will be available in all cabins and public spaces, making it easy to share photos from your trip to the famous 24-Hour race. Caen is 100 miles from Le Mans and can be reached in just 90 minutes – or less if you’re prepared to risk a roadside chat with the gendarmerie.

Ferry for the digital age

In common with other ferries operated by Brittany Ferries, the Honfleur will boast bars, restaurants, cinemas, shops and quiet zones, along with a new ‘digital lounge’. The ferry operator claims the ship will be the “greenest vessel regularly operating on the English Channel”.

The liquefied natural gas (LNG) powered cruise ferry will burn fuel with no sulphur emissions, much lower particulates and less carbon dioxide than diesel. The quieter and more efficient form of power delivery reduces vibration and noise: ideal if you’re hoping to get some shut-eye after a long night at Le Mans.

The Honfleur will ferry 1,680 passengers between Portsmouth and Caen, with space for 550 cars. The route – currently handled by the Normandie – takes six hours, either on a day or overnight crossing.

Life after Brexit

News of the order comes a year since the UK voted to leave the EU, with the Honfleur set for its maiden voyage as Brexit negotiations reach a climax in 2019. The ferry will be built by the German shipyard, Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft.

A spokesman for Brittany Ferries told the Daily Mail: “We remain confident about the future despite the challenges of Brexit.

“Almost exactly a year after the Brexit vote, Brittany Ferries has confirmed the order for a new liquefied natural gas (LNG) cruise ferry. It will operate on the company’s busiest route from Portsmouth to Caen with a planned arrival in spring 2019 – as Brexit negotiations move towards completion.”

Brittany Ferries operates ferries from Portsmouth, Poole and Plymouth, with destinations including Cherbourg, Le Havre, Santander and Bilbao. The company was founded in 1972 by a group of Breton farmers who wanted to export their cauliflowers and artichokes to the UK. Today, it is the largest maritime carrier on the western and central Channel.


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Racing in the blood: the story of the Ford GT40

Racing in the blood: the story of the Ford GT40

Racing in the blood: the story of the Ford GT40The Ford GT40 is perhaps the best-known American supercar – awesome on the road and unstoppable on the racetrack. It’s also the inspiration for the present-day Ford GT. Here’s where it all began…

Henry Ford II

Racing in the blood: the story of the Ford GT40

The genesis of the original GT40 came from a dispute between Henry Ford II and Enzo Ferrari. Ford had wanted to buy the Italian manufacturer in 1963, yet found Ferrari unwilling to step away from the Indianapolis 500, which would have placed the two marques in direct competition. The deal failed, and Henry Ford II directed his company to find a way to enact revenge on-track at Le Mans.

1964 Ford GT prototype

Racing in the blood: the story of the Ford GT40

Ford initially courted Lola Cars, Lotus and Cooper for a partner to build its new Le Mans racer. Lola was eventually chosen, in part due to the fact the Lola Mk6 race car already made use of a Ford V8 engine. Lola donated two Mk6 chassis from its factory in Slough, while Ford set about creating a team to develop and build its new race machine.

1964 Ford GT prototype engine

Racing in the blood: the story of the Ford GT40

The newly created Ford Advanced Vehicles team set about development of the GT40. Early prototypes made use of a mid-mounted 255 cubic inch (4.2-litre) Ford V8, while later cars would use a 289 cubic inch (4.7-litre) unit. Famously, the GT40 name came from the overall height of the car: just 40 inches.

1964 Ford GT40 Mk1 – Nürburgring 1,000km

Racing in the blood: the story of the Ford GT40

Making their debut at the gruelling Nürburgring 1,000km in 1964, the driver pairing of Phil Hill and Bruce McLaren qualified second on the grid. However, a suspension failure meant the GT40 failed to finish the race. The 1964 Le Mans event would also prove disastrous, as all three cars entered failed to finish. And to rub salt in the wound, Ferrari won both races…

1965 Ford GT40 Mk1 – Daytona 2,000km

Racing in the blood: the story of the Ford GT40

For 1965, Ford switched management of the GT40 to Carroll Shelby, following his successes with the Ford-powered Shelby Daytona Coupe. Victory came immediately, with a win for Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby at the Daytona 2,000km race, with Bob Bondurant and Richie Ginther taking third in a sister GT40. Yet the remainder of 1965 would prove fruitless, with no more wins for Ford.

1966 Ford GT40 Mk1 road car

Racing in the blood: the story of the Ford GT40

Road versions of the GT40 soon rolled out of the factory, with the first example delivered to the US in early 1966. Although the Mk1 road cars had softer suspension, quieter exhausts and options such as air-conditioning and leather seats, they still featured a 335hp V8 engine. The car above was owned by the same family for nearly 40 years. Values today can top £4million.

1966 Ford GT40 Mk2Racing in the blood: the story of the Ford GT40

The Mk2 may have looked similar to its predecessor, but there were numerous changes beneath the bodywork. In came a 427 cubic inch (7.0-litre) Ford FE engine, with an exhaust system nicknamed ‘a bundle of snakes’ for its elaborate design. A strengthened gearbox was also used, featuring just four speeds instead of the five found in the Mk1. Finishing 1-2-3-5 in the ’66 Daytona 24 Hours proved the changes were a good move, and set Ford on the path to glory.

1966 Ford GT40 Mk2 ‘X-1’ roadster

Racing in the blood: the story of the Ford GT40

Initially created for Bruce McLaren Racing in 1965 with a low-drag windscreen, on return to Ford the one-off roadster was updated to Mk2 specification for Shelby American. Its only race event came at the 1966 12 Hours of Sebring where, after experimenting with automatic gearboxes during practice, a manual transmission was fitted for the race. When the engine of the lead GT40 Mk2 seized, the X-1 Roadster of Miles and Ruby slipped through to victory.

1966 24 Hours of Le Mans

Racing in the blood: the story of the Ford GT40

After years of frustration, 1966 would finally deliver the success Henry Ford II had been seeking. While Ferrari floundered as reliability issues struck the 330 P3, Ford took a dominant 1-2-3 finish. The result was not without controversy, though, thanks to Ford’s decision to stage a photo finish. Ken Miles, upset at a lack of recognition for his dedication to the GT40 project, deliberately slowed down to let the car of Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon take the win.

1967 Ford GT40 MkIII road car

Racing in the blood: the story of the Ford GT40

As the GT40 race car was cleaning up on track, a bespoke road-going version was being readied. Unlike previous street-legal GT40s, the MkIII had specific features to make it suited to the highway. An elongated rear gave access to a luggage compartment, while the bumpers gained small chrome overriders. Unlike the race cars, there was no bigger engine, with power still coming from the 289 cubic inch (4.2-litre) V8. Only seven examples of the MkIII were built, with just three in right-hand drive.

1967 Ford GT40 J-car

Racing in the blood: the story of the Ford GT40

Despite the success of the MkII GT40, Ford didn’t rest on its laurels and set about developing the car even further. With power now sufficient, experimental aerodynamic changes to maximise the muscle were made throughout 1966 and 1967, along with a lightened chassis. Tragedy struck during a test session, when famed driver Ken Miles was killed in a high-speed accident at Riverside International Raceway, with blame laid at the lack of downforce from the aero modifications.

1967 Ford GT40 MkIV

Racing in the blood: the story of the Ford GT40

The experimental flat-topped roof of the J-car was dropped, but the resulting MkIV still managed to look distinctive. Lengthened and streamlined to achieve a higher top speed, the MkIV also had a lightened chassis. The death of Ken Miles was not in vain, with a high-strength roll cage also being fitted. Although the MkIV only entered two races, it claimed a 100% success rate, with victories in the 1967 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans.

1968 Ford GT40 Mk1 Le Mans

Racing in the blood: the story of the Ford GT40

Concerned by the high speeds seen during the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans, the FIA capped engine sizes at 5.0-litres for cars in the Sports class in 1968. This ruled out the MkII and MkIV versions of the GT40, but meant the earlier, smaller-engined Mk1 was still eligible. Now with reliability on its side, the Mk1 took overall victory in 1968, driven by Pedro Rodriguez and Lucien Bianchi. It would repeat the same feat in 1969 with Jackie Ickx and Jackie Oliver driving, taking the total number of outright Le Mans wins for the GT40 to four in a row.

Fewer Brit drivers caught speeding in France over Le Mans weekend

Fewer Brit drivers caught speeding in France over Le Mans weekend

Fewer Brit drivers caught speeding in France over Le Mans weekend

The number of drivers caught speeding during the Le Mans 24 Hour weekend was considerably lower than last year, according to one French police force.

The Gendarmerie de l’Orne covers just one of the regions Brit drivers might pass through on their way to the race.

Last year, DriveEurope reports, nearly 1,000 tickets were handed out in the region which includes the A88 from Caen and A28 from Rouen.

But for this year’s race, the Orne Police has revealed 177 drivers were caught speeding through the region.

Out of these speeders, 20 have had their licence revoked in France – including six of Spanish or British nationality.

The top speeds recorded were 195km/h (121mph), 194km/h (121mph), and 192kmh (119mph). The speed limit on most French motorways is 130km/h (81mph) in dry conditions.

Other infringements included driving under the influence of alcohol, using their mobile phone while driving and not wearing seat belts. It’s not known whether any of these drivers were British.

Many visitors to the race, a yearly pilgrimage for many UK car enthusiasts, complained of heavy traffic and delayed ferries.

Other police forces on the way to Le Mans are yet to reveal how many speeding offences they dealt with.

This safety car driver did an incredible drift at a soggy Le Mans

This safety car driver held an incredible drift at a soggy Le Mans

This safety car driver did an incredible drift at a soggy Le Mans

The Le Mans 24-Hour race hasn’t even started yet – but we’ve already seen some epic driving in the form of an Audi R8 safety car being driven by four-time Le Mans winner Yannick Dalmas.

The safety car was out inspecting the soaking wet track following a rain-forced red flag during the final qualifying session.

TV viewers were treated to the sight of the Audi R8 seemingly losing it before more-than-a-dab of oppo was applied and an incredible drift was held.

Porsche driver Mark Webber was even seen admiring the safety car driver’s handywork.

How to survive Le Mans

How to survive Le Mans in 6 easy steps

How to survive Le MansNow in its 84th year, Le Mans remains the most exciting event on the motorsport calendar. The 2016 event takes place from 15-19 June, and thousands of Brits are expected to make the pilgrimage to Circuit de la Sarthe in France.

With 24 hours of racing to complete, Le Mans is a herculean test for both cars and drivers. We caught up with Strakka Racing’s Danny Watts – an eight-time veteran of Le Mans and former LMP2 winner – to discover his six secrets of survival. You can follow Danny’s progress on Twitter: @wattsracing

1. Eat properly

Carbs are really important. It’s critical drivers get a good amount at breakfast. Pasta, rice, noodles are great sources of energy. It’s important to get a reward, too. I do like a fish-finger sandwich after a long stint in the car! It’s the same for the fans. Make sure you eat regularly – and not big, heavy meals. They will make you feel tired.

Watts-052. Drink well

Our ‘human performance’ guy creates a drink with electrolytes – these help our muscles to work properly. You need replace the fluids you lose while driving, and your muscles need sodium and potassium. So we don’t just have water. Coconut water is a good natural source of electrolyte. The mechanics have taken at least 60 litres for them to drink!  Don’t have too much coffee, it’s diuretic too. Some of the guys like to have an espresso 30 mins before qualifying.

How to survive Le Mans3. Warm yourself up

Warm up properly – it’s really important that we are ready for those stints at night-time, both physically and mentally. We do some hand-eye co-ordination work, maybe some ball-catching – as well as your usual muscle stretches.

How to survive Le Mans4. Sleep!

Le Mans is a long week for drivers – on Wednesday and Thursday we have qualifying until late in the night. After that, we have a debrief with the engineers, so we get to bed late. I’ve got a motorhome on the Bugatti circuit (on the infield) that I share with my team-mate Jonny Kane. It’s a quiet (ish) area to get some quiet time. I’ll get sleep whenever I can, and the fans should as well. It’s not easy, but you’ve got a better chance of surviving the weekend…

How to survive Le Mans5. Enjoy every minute, but pace yourself

The atmosphere at Le Mans is amazing, and you just want to soak it all up. There is so much to do, but pace yourself – whether as a driver or as a fan. From scrutineering through to the drivers’ parade, qualifying, photoshoots – it’s a full-on event. Keep a sense of humour; it’s really hard when everyone is tired but we’ll have some banter with the guys to keep spirits high. The race is an emotionally draining event for everyone.

How to survive Le Mans6. Be prepared

Pack properly, and don’t forget phone chargers and plenty of spare clothing. The weather isn’t always great and you don’t have many places to dry out. That especially applies to us in an open-top car, although it’s probably the last time these will run at Le Mans.

Porsche 919 Hybrid Le Mans 2015

Porsche to run victorious retro livery at Le Mans 2015

Porsche 919 Hybrid Le Mans 2015Porsche will run three 919 Hybrid LMP1 racers in the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours race – including a red one that pays tribute to its first LM24 victory in 1970.

Its #17 prototype, driven by Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and ex-F1 star Mark Webber, will boast retro red colours that harks back to the 1970 Porsche 917 KH driven to victory by Hans Herrmann and Britain’s Richard Attwood.

Porsche 917 Le Mans win 1970

This was the first of 16 victories for Porsche at Le Mans: no brand has won more.

It will run its #18 car, driven by Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Mark Lieb, in a black livery; this is to commemorate the black 918 Spyder road car that set a new Nurburgring Nordschleife lap record of 6 minutes 57 seconds in 2013.

The third #19 car, driven by Earl Bamber, Nico Hulkenberg and Brit star Nick Tandy, will carry the traditional German national racing car colour of white.

Despite the differing colours, adds Porsche, all 919 Hybrids are the same underneath.

The German sports car brand revealed the colours ahead of the official Le Mans 24 Hours pre-test; on 31 May, teams will get eight hours of track time to prepare for the race, which start at 1600h on 13 June.

At its first Le Mans appearance, adds Porsche, it didn’t have to worry about paint colours. The 1951 356 SL 110 had a bare aluminium body, for maximum weight-saving…