The 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans will actually mark two very important anniversaries in the history of the world’s most famous endurance race. It will be the 50th anniversary of the first of four consecutive victories by the legendary Ford GT. It also marks the 25th anniversary of Mazda’s only victory with the rotary-powered 787B. Just after Ford announced it’s return to France next year, Mazda’s Nubohiro Yamamoto told Top Gear magazine that he would like to see the Japanese brand return to the endurance race.
A day before the 2015 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Ford Motor Company executive chairman Bill Ford announced that the company bearing his family name would be partnering with Ganassi Racing to field four of its new GT supercars in the French enduro next year. Wall Street Journal auto critic Dan Neil wrote about this on the newspaper’s website on Sunday after the race. More interesting perhaps was what he wrote when he linked to his Journal piece on Facebook.
There he said that he felt the GT should be badged as a Lincoln rather than a Ford to help support the premium brand. I’d like to suggest a different strategy for what Ford might be thinking here. Full disclosure, when I left the Ford communications team in mid-2014, I was privy to some future product information which had not yet been revealed at the time including the Lincoln Continental, Ford GT, Focus RS and Shelby GT350. All of that information has now been publicly announced and what comes next is pure speculation on my part with no basis in fact.
In early 1963, Ford Motor Company very nearly acquired Ferrari. Fortunately for automotive enthusiasts the world over, Enzo Ferrari rebuffed the offer from Henry Ford II at the last possible moment. There is no way of knowing what would have happened if the Dearborn automaker had succeeded in subsuming the then tiny Italian sports car manufacturer and racing team. However, we do know that the rejection spawned one of the greatest rivalries and some of the greatest cars of the past half century. The day before the 2015 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, starting with “We’re Back!” Henry Ford II’s nephew Bill announced the next stage in that rivalry with a 2016 return to Circuit de la Sarthe powered by the all-new GT.
Max and I are in Virginia this weekend for the inaugural race of the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup. You can read all about that at Diesel Forecast and AutoblogGreen. If you’ve been watching TV in recent weeks you might have seen Volkswagen’s new brand campaign featuring a series of interviews between some pseudo celebrities and “Max”. Max is the star of the ads and he/it is here this weekend for the race. Max and Max met face to face for the first time this morning. The TV Max is the one on the right in the commercials.
The Detroit Grand Prix returned to Belle Isle this week and Max and I were able to go as guests of Acura. The weather was perfect and Roger Penske did an awesome job of improving the facility. For next year though, they really need to do a better job of organizing the lines for the buses to get off the island at the end. Check out Autoblog.com for my posts from the event with lots of galleries.