Nigel S Dobbie's definitive book on Corvette racing

C8 Zora vs Ford GT

With the announcement on the 12th of January at the North American International Auto Show of the new 2017 Ford GT, this raises a few interesting thoughts / questions in my mind today.As anyone with an ounce of petrol flowing through their veins will know the original Ford GT came about back in the 1960s as a revenge weapon against Ferrari. Enzo Ferrari famously courted The Ford Motor Company and then changed his mind, which led Ford to serve their revenge as a dish best served cold at the 1966 Le Mans 24 Hours race and just to push the knife in further again in 1967,68 and 69.
The Ford GT was then launched again in 2005 and a small number were raced at Le Mans in privateer hands and also in the FIA GT and GT1 World Championship, but not with factory support or as a factory team.
The plan for Ford in 2016 is to race again at Le Mans and this time the car will be backed by the Ford Motor Company but run by the (Target) Chip Ganassi organisation. Ganassi currently run the Ford 3.5 Twin Turbo Eco Boost engines in their Riley Daytona Prototypes in the Tudor United Sportscar Championship and therefore I would assume that for the 2016 season they will switch to the GTLM Class with the new Ford GT given it is the 60th anniversary of the 1966 Le Mans victory.
Given the international nature of Le Mans (it is in France after all) it doesn’t make sense to me that the team would be sponsored by Target – unless of course they are planning on launching a range of stores in France. The obvious and some would say iconic choice for a headline sponsor for the team would be the Gulf Oil Company, but this causes a problem as they currently sponsor one of the major GTLM / GTE PRO / GTE AM Class rivals Aston Martin.
What might you ask has this got to do with Corvette? Given this is a Corvette centric blog after all, well, GTLM features the current C7R Corvette and I would assume that in 2016 we can expect the Corvette Racing team to be given one instruction for the year. WIN LE MANS. Failing that beat the Fords everywhere they race.
For 2017 and the expected launch of the rear-engined Corvette C8 Zora I can see the rivalry intensifying as both will be competing with similar rear-engined machinery, again assuming Corvette Racing launch their C8R at the NAIAS in 2017….or will perhaps GM tell Corvette to ramp up the program and launch in 2016 to directly compete against the Ford with similar machinery…..only time will tell.
Just to throw a further manufacturer into mix, Ferrari is now owned by FCA or Fiat Chrysler Automotive, could this mean Ferrari running a factory backed Le Mans effort in GTLM with their Ferrari 458 Italia – a dish served 60 years colder – or resurrecting the factory backed Dodge Viper program to compete against Ford?
I am already thinking about booking for Le Mans in 2016,17 – possibly not a huge surprise to those that know me as I have attended every year that Corvette Racing have attended Le Mans going all the way back to 2000 – but given this potential new rivalry in the GTE Class I can see this being a new golden era for Le Mans so those “thinking” about attending should stop “thinking” and start attending.

Nigel S. Dobbie