Posts Tagged ‘Ford GT Mk2’

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Evocative Jesse Alexander pre-start shot of the Mario Andretti/Lucien Bianchi Ford GT Mk2 and a young Ford fan…

The American, Italian/Belgian combo survived 97 laps before retiring with head gasket failure of their 6982cc pushrod V8.

Andretti was the ‘young gun’. He won the USAC Championship in 1965 and had plenty of wins too in 1966, but had limited sportscar experience, Le Mans, was his first GT40 race! Bianchi was the opposite, vastly experienced in such cars with three straight Tour de France victories from 1957-9 and a Sebring 12 Hour win with Jo Bonnier in 1962 to his credit.

The pair started 12th and steadily worked their way up the field, but luck was not on their side, retiring in the eighth hour.

They hit it off though, Holman & Moody paired them together again in a MkIV in 1967.

Le Mans 1966 Ford prep

Pre race preparation, Hawkins/Donohue Ford Mk2 in the foreground, the #6 Andretti/Bianchi car clear…a military operation! (Dave Friedman)

The GTs’ famously failed to win in the previous two years but Ford made no mistakes in 1966, no less than thirteen of the powerful cars, both GT40’s and Mark 2’s started with Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon victorious in a Shelby American entered Mk2.

They ‘beat’ Ken Miles and Denny Hulme in the ‘infamous form finish’ in another Shelby Mk2.

LeMans 1966 grid forming

(Ford Motorsports Archive)

Gridding up pre start, above.

#2 is the victorious McLaren/Amon Mk2, #3 Gurney/Grant Mk2 (DNF), #4 Hawkins/Donohue Mk2 (DNF), and the rest. Captures the moment doesn’t it?

Le mans '66 start

(unattributed)

Le Mans ’66 start, look at that crowd.

#3 Dan Gurney, #4 Paul Hawkins, from grid slot 11!- what a blinder from the race start from the Aussie, #1 Ken Miles, the yellow car alongside is John Whitmore, #2 Bruce McLaren in the winning car- all Ford Mk2, you can just see the tail of the Bucknum Mk2, from 9th on the grid! and the rest.

Hill Le Mans 1966

(Automobile Year 14)

Every man and his dog have used this photograph in online and more traditional media down the decades! I first saw it in Automobile Year- I should check to see who the photographer is- such a marvellous action shot.

Graham Hill squirts his Alan Mann Racing Ford Mk2 off the line leaving the NART Pedro Rodriguez/Richie Ginther Ferrari P2/3 ‘Spyder’ on the line…’slippery diff functioning well.

In a race of incredible attrition amongst the front-runners only three of the thirteen Ford GT’s which started finished and only two Ferrari GT’s of 14 which set off at 4pm were running 24 hours later. The Hill/Brian Muir Mk2 retired on lap 110 with front suspension damage and the Ginther/Rodriguez car on lap 151 with gearbox failure.

Hub repair

(Ford Motorsport)

A Shelby-American mechanic checks a new disc before fitment to the Gurney/Grant Mk2 hub assembly.

The beautiful standard of fabrication and workmanship of the front upright and suspension assembly clear in this shot. Front suspension comprises double wishbones, coil spring/damper units and adjustable sway bar. Steering arm also in shot, knock off nut etc.

66 Le Mans form finish...

(unattributed)

Almost to the finish…the Shelby American cars of McLaren on the left, Miles on the right, at about this point Miles backs off allowing McLaren/Amon to take the win.

The absolute detail of the finish has several versions but the sequence as follows seems to be generally accepted.

At the race halfway mark four GT Mk2’s comprised the lead group. By 9 am only three Mk2’s were left of the ? which started- all the GT40’s had retired. Ford Director of Racing Leo Beebe was not happy as Ken Miles and Dan Gurney had been dicing for the lead- against team orders- the Gurney/Grant car was the last of the Mk2’s to retire just before 9 with head-gasket failure.

1966 formation finish

(unattributed)

It was at this point that Beebe decided upon a ‘dead heat’ between his two lead cars. This, it was thought, ¬†would stop the competition between the remaining cars and emphasise the win as one for the car rather than the driver.

The organising club, the ACO told him that a dead-heat would not be possible as the McLaren/Amon car, which started from grid slot 2, would have covered a greater distance than the Miles/Hulme car which started from pole- a difference according to the club of 8 and 20 metres depending upon the account.

But, assuming the cars were still running at 4 pm, Beebe decided to push ahead with his plan and instructed Miles to ease his pace at the last pit stop- the Miles/Hulme car led at that point, to allow McLaren to catch up.

Just before 4 pm it started to drizzle again.  Ken Miles whilst pissed off, wants no part of it of the contrived finish, so eases gently before the flag in the photo above, or Bruce surged, depending upon the account, allowing Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon /McLaren to take the win.

Miles was dead in a Ford J car testing accident at Riverside, California within two months. The great British American the lead development driver of the GT40 program was in the view of many the more deserving of the drivers to win the race- but there are many layers to this race finish. Beebe’s successful attempt to get his cars to the finish and over the line first is understandable, to say the least, given the failures of the GT40 and Mark2’s at Le Mans in 1964 and 1965.

In terms of ‘deserving drivers’ lets not forget Bruce did a huge amount of the initial GT40 testing for JW Automotive way back in 1964 and subsequently, not to forget that he raced the cars at Le Mans in 1964, (GT40 with Phil Hill DNF gearbox on lap 192) 1965, (Mk2 with Miles DNF gearbox on lap 45) 1966 and 1967 (MK4 4th with Donohue).

Photo Credits…

Jesse Alexander, Ford Motorsport Archive, Automobile Year

Tailpieces…

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Andretti and friends before the off (Jesse Alexander)

 

Ford Mk2 rear suspension

Mk2 business end, Daytona 1967. Note 2 roll bars to counteract the forces on the bankings (Automobile Year)

Finito…