Ford has confirmed that the 2019 running of the Le Mans 24 Hours will be the final time it competes as a factory in the FIA World Endurance Championship GTE Pro class.
Ford began racing the GT back in 2016, winning its class at Le Mans on debut, and has since taken six additional WEC class wins.
“In 2016, Ford returned to Le Mans to mark the 50th anniversary of our incredible 1966 win, and we celebrated in the best way possible by winning the race,” said Bill Ford, executive chairman, Ford Motor Company.
“To stand on that podium on behalf of the employees was a proud moment for me, and I look forward returning to Le Mans this year to support the team as we approach our final race in this chapter.”
Beyond Le Mans, Ford will continue racing the GTs in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship through to the end of 2019 with Chip Ganassi Racing, although the IMSA program, too, appears to be in serious doubt beyond that point.
“The Ford GT was created to take Ford back to the world of GT endurance racing,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance Motorsports. “This factory Ford GT program has been a great success for our brand, and we have enjoyed the many challenges that have come our way during this four-year program. Le Mans is not quite the end of the factory program as we still have many more IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races to go in 2019.”
This news comes shortly after BMW confirmed that its FIA WEC factory commitments will also end next month after just one season with its MTEK-run M8 GTEs. That, as expected, brings the likely number of factory-backed FIA WEC GTE Pro cars for the 2019/20 season to just six, with only a pair apiece from Aston Martin Racing, Porsche GT Team and AF Corse now expected.
At Le Mans, Ford plans to bow out with retro liveries. The No. 66 (WEC) Ford GT, which will be driven by Stefan Mucke, Olivier Pla and Billy Johnson, will sport a black livery as a nod to the Ford GT40 of Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon that won Le Mans with back in 1966.
The sister WEC GT, the No. 67 of Andy Priaulx, Harry Tincknell and Jonathan Bomarito will run the colors of the Ford GT40 that Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt drove to victory at Le Mans in 1967.
Ganassi USA’s No. 68 Ford GT, meanwhile, will run in the same livery that the No. 68 won the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours in. That will be driven by Dirk Muller, Joey Hand and Sebastien Bourdais.
The other IMSA-crewed GT – the No. 69 of Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook – takes its design cues from the Ford GT40 that came second in Ford’s glorious 1-2-3 finish at Le Mans in 1966.
The four factory cars will also be joined by a fifth GT from Keating Motorsports in the GTE Am class, running in previously-confirmed Wynns colors. Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Felipe Fraga will race the purple and orange example.
The GTs will be seen running in public in their new colors for the first time this Sunday at the Le Mans Test Day.