RACER has learned Ford, which currently competes in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship with two factory-supported Daytona Prototypes, is considering a return to compete at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Ford claimed four consecutive wins at the famed French endurance race from 1966-1969 with the iconic GT40 (BOTTOM), which has stood as the Blue Oval’s crowning achievement at La Sarthe, but that could change if a proposal to campaign a twin-turbo V6 EcoBoost-powered P2 program is accepted. A decision could be imminent.
While a Ford P2 entry at Le Mans would not contend for an overall win, it would offer the brand a chance to take on Honda and Nissan in the highly competitive second-tier prototype division.
The Blue Oval currently supports Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, and Michael Shank Racing in the TUDOR Championship’s Prototype class. The DP version of its P2 powerplant, built by Roush Yates Engines, earned the overall win with Ganassi’s No. 01 Riley-Ford at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March.
Asked if a Le Mans P2 program was on the horizon, Ford Racing PR Director Kevin Kennedy told RACER: “I can’t confirm or deny any part of that.”
It’s unclear whether Ganassi, Shank, or both teams would spearhead a Le Mans effort on behalf of Ford. It’s believed a North American-based P2 chassis solution would be made. Multimatic built Ford’s focus-themed DP in 2003, making the Canadian firm an obvious candidate to supply Ford with the same model of P2 coupe currently used by Mazda in the TUDOR Championship.
If it comes to fruition, and with the 83rd running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans less than a year away, a 2016 debut would fit a proper testing and development timeline, but something closer to 2017 – the first year of a new, common P2-style chassis that will be used by the WEC and TUDOR Championship – is also likely. Campaigning P2 Fords in the TUDOR Championship to gain chassis, aero and engine data would also be a logical choice prior to entering the 24 Hours Le Mans.
RACER has also confirmed employment inquiries related to the Le Mans project have been made to personnel currently involved in road racing. A recent job posting from Ford seeking an aerodynamics supervisor for its stock car and sports car programs would also fill a valuable role if Ford Racing commits to an expanded prototype program.
Provided the P2 plan receives a green light, it would follow a proposal to build and field GTE-class Mustangs to coincide with the car’s 50th anniversary in 2014. Dan Gurney, Ford’s 1967 Le Mans winner, was rumored to be the chosen constructor and entrant through his All American Racers outfit, but the program was declined by the American auto manufacturer. AAR recently committed to aid Nissan’s 2015 P1 program.