This is the moment Blue Oval fans around the world have been waiting years for: Ford Motor Company’s [NYSE:F] imminent return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
And the American automaker is off to a solid start for this weekend’s race, the highlight of the 2016 World Endurance Championship, with its new GT race car securing pole position in the GTE Pro class after a rain-soaked qualifying.
GTs will also start at positions two, four and five in the class thanks to the sheer dominance of the car and its drivers in the session.
Pole was claimed by Dirk Muller who put in a 3:51.185 on Wednesday night behind the wheel of the #68 GT fielded by Ford Chip Ganassi Racing. Second was Ryan Briscoe in the #69 GT. Third went to the #51 Ferrari [NYSE:RACE] 488 GTE of AF Corse, driven by Gianmaria Bruni, and Ferraris will also be starting at positions six and seven in the GTE Pro class.
In the premier LMP1 class, Neel Jani on Thursday driving the #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid claimed pole with a time of 3:19.733—the 18th time the German sports car marque has achieved the feat.
The #1 919 Hybrid will start at second, providing the German team with a good footing to repeat its win last year. Starting at third and fourth in the LMP1 class will be the #6 and #5 Toyota TS050 Hybrids, respectively, and then its two Audi R18s and two Rebellion R-Ones.
Starting at pole in the LMP2 class will be the #26 Nissan-powered prototype of G-Drive Racing and finally in the GTE Am class starting at pole will be the #61 Ferrari 458 Italia of Clearwater Racing.
Hopefully we’re set for some serious clashes between Ford and Ferrari this weekend, perhaps even a repeat of Ford’s historic one-two-three finish in the 24 Hours of Le Mans 50 years ago with the iconic GT40. As the legend goes, a rejection of Henry Ford II’s proposal to buy Ferrari prompted him to commission the GT40 project and defeat the Italian marque on the world stage at one of motorsport’s premier events.
And there’s already been some controversy this year regarding Ford’s stunning performance so far. Organizers have confirmed that some Balance of Performance adjustments have been made to both the Ford GT and Ferrari 488 GTEs competing this weekend, mainly in the area of minimum weight, boost pressure limits and fuel volume.
You’ll be able to follow Ford Chip Ganassi Racing throughout the race as Ford will be streaming the action live. The stream starts June 18 at 8 a.m. Eastern and can be found at the web address www.fordperformance.tv.