The 1967 Ford Mark IV: Legend of Le MansFeb 27, 2020
now the number one fort has established a 32 mile lead the expected challenge from Ferrari has not been developed fifteen cars have already retired trying to keep up with the bright red war is one of the
legendary racing stories in 1963 Ford Motor Company agrees to buy Ferrari, the Italian automaker famous for its exotic sports cars and exceptional racing team in the 11th hour, founder Enzo Ferrari backs out of the deal, upset but undaunted, Ford Chairman and CEO ,Henry Ford the second grandson of company founder Henry Ford makes a decision if his company can't buy Ferrari then he will beat Ferrari in the biggest sports car race in the world so they are going to challenge Ferrari in his favorite field which at the time was everyone's 24 hour and this was a big gamble on Ford's part basically because he really had no experience in racing cars long-distance sports cars, they were out of their element and this was a place where Ferrari had reigned supreme for years, 24 hours.
The LeMans race, western France, it was never about speed, it was a test of endurance, the circuit itself is about 8.3 miles in radius, there are some very tight corners, there is an exceptionally long straight, the Mulsanne Straight, where this car, the Mark 4, was doing about 212 miles per hour. but at the end of that straightaway there's a hairpin turn where you have to slow down to about 3035 mph to get through there safely, so going through that sort of thing over and over again over the course of 24 hours. You can imagine how hard it is on the mechanics of the car, not to mention the strain it puts on the two drivers.
Just finishing the race was a great achievement and victory for Ford would not be easy. British engineer Eric de Lola was approached extensively by the company. cars and he had a car called Lola gt2 his beautiful car his lowest car really any at that time only about 42 inches off the ground. Ford decides that they will cut a deal with him and use the Lola GT as the basis for their next car, although the Ford race car turned out to be even lower than the overall car by 2 inches with its roof only 40 inches high. Ford's car was dubbed the GT40 by the racing press, the cars debut in Lama 1964 promised a GT40 led the first hour and a half, but 90 minutes is meaningless in a 24 hour race, they went into 64 probably thinking that they would put on a good show I don't know if they thought they would win the first time but not such a good show none of their cars made it to finish so it must have been a little disappointing Ford turned to Lamar veteran Carroll Shelby John Wyer built the car and then took it to Lamar in 1964 and it didn't work very well and that's when they handed us the program in California, the Shelby team took the cars apart reducing weight and improving airflow and in February of 1965 , the gt40 got With his first win at the Daytona 2000 four months later, Shelby returned to LA ma with a potent new weapon.
The G T40 Mark 2 replaced the original 289 Ford V8 with the company's NASCAR-proven 427, but the French classic brought disappointment again. spare engine crew and an army of 100 people we had specialists for everything was available if needed i mean wiper specials light specialist engine specialist will break the specials there for everything if it happened when race time came at 4: 00 pm Henry Ford II himself dropped the starting flag the
markto set a breakneck pace Drivers Ken Miles and Dan Gurney averaged over 140mph over a few laps however it was Ferrari who failed to finish when the end of the race was approaching the three two two
markled the field ten miles and Denny's house were in first place in the number one car followed by Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon in the number two car Ronnie buck Newman dick Hudson was in third position with his number five car feeling a publicity bonanza Ford execs hatched a plan Kim Miles had already won Daytona and Sebring was leading by a lap and a half and aristocracy and Ford decided all three cars would cross the finish line at the same time because they are running one two three pros all the drivers did as they were told and crossed the finish line as close together as possible, but a technicality screwed up Ford's scheme.
The sea. I always thought they made up the rule that Bruce McLaren had started a bit further. at the start of Lamar, they said that they had run fifty feet more than the others and that if anything broke a man's heart it was the fact that Kim Miles would have been the first and only person to win all three races in the same year Despite the overturned tie, the 1-2-3 finish was a dramatic realization of Ford's goal, the campaign could have ended right there, but within weeks Ford made it official that it would return to Lamar in
1967and with an all-new car designed and built. in the states we had barely taken the time to clean up the aftermath and on the door bits and stuff when the news hit let's do it again
fordsaid it was hopeful for the experimental J car named for its fulfillment With the flame rule book Appendix J, aside from the big black 427 engine and powertrain, it was very little over the mark: it was a thinner and lighter car, but just two months after Lamar's triumph, the GT program Ford's hit its nadir when Ken Miles was k Ill test-drive the J-car and foreign engineers in California struggled to correct the J-car.
They made the chassis stronger and redesigned the body, but handling remained poor. Phil Remington Shelby's main fabricator flew to Dearborn and, in a week of non-stop work, he and Ford staff Rhys Culp transformed the J car into a longer, sleeker and safer car, the Mark 4, worked hard. in the design and as they said, the wind tunnel in his head envisioned what the car should look like by seeing some of the lines. the look and then they tested it in an actual wind tunnel here in Dearborn and found that Remick's design had shaped about a hundred pounds of drag from the vehicle, so you've got this great combination of downforce. penetrating into the air, but also keeping the car on the track to avoid another action of the kind taken by Ken Wiles, his wife, his efforts paid off in the first make four race when he won the Sebring 12 Hours in April
1967Bruce McLaren and Mario Andretti at the wheel and now everyone was waiting for Lamar, but Ferrari arrived in France with a new car of its own, the 330 p4, it featured a 244 cubic inch v12 capable of 450 horsepower, not far off the mark .
Four 500 horsepower the brand. 4 made an ominous debut at LeMond when the windshields were smashed during pre-race practice. Ford had brought spare parts but not enough for each of the Mark four entered. An urgent phone call was made to the United States. The next morning at Orly in Paris a 707 with six arrived Windshield crisis averted on race day Dan Gurney and AJ Foyt drove the number one red car. Speed was not a problem for them. Keeping the car in one piece throughout the race was a concern. it was very very fast no one could race near us and the most important thing was to keep around 24hrs the mark 4 was a great car and if it had an achilles heel it would be on the brakes the car was pretty heavy probably 500 Post Unds was heavier than most cars in the same race and would go fast at 12 or so a little bit more and probably pretty close to 3,000 pounds so the brakes had a lot of work to do after a straight three miles where you're really cooking the stretcher and Foyt took the lead after 90 minutes and they never looked back.
They kept a disciplined pace. The strategy led to a surreal moment at 2:30 in the morning when one of Ferrari's top drivers came up behind the stretcher. Michael Parks was the team lead engineer for their sports car program and a very competent racer and engineer sure enough here comes Mike Parks and he's on that light switch you know blink blink blink select it like that and you're like Arc . looking for a fight hoping gurney would push the mark too far or make a mistake that i was getting tired of and he kept doing about four or five laps each time and he was on top of me and he wanted to say hey listen you know. let's get d So I took over, but I refused to do it.
I pulled over to the right after leaving Arnaud and there was a grassy edge there. I stopped and stopped in the grass and I could stop right behind. He was brave. He just threw. and it stopped for about 10 seconds which seemed like forever. The two leading cars stopped dead. Gurney's ploy worked on the frustrated Parks. He backed onto the track and sped up. He stretcher race again on his own terms. It really was, I think, a characteristic illustration of how restricted the stretcher was. He was able to convince Floyd that this was one way to win this race: let's not push this car so hard that we wreck it and get out of the race in the process.
LeMond took his usual price on the machinery. Three Ford cars were lost in a single crash at 3:30 a.m., but the number one red car never missed a beat as AJ Foyt crossed the finish line at 4 p.m. he was 32 miles ahead of second place in the checkered race, he and Gurney had covered 3,000 250 miles in 24 hours and set a new average running speed record of 135 point 4 8 miles per hour. a bottle of champagne in her hands the gurney was looking out at the crowd of press photographers so we were up there and looking and there was just a sea of photographers down below and they were all looking at us and there was a moment where no one was telling us what to do, but I could tell they were there waiting for something to get caught by the time Camilla shook up her champagne and sprayed it on everyone.
It was like a fire hose. cameras and they loved it, it was the start of a new sporting tradition and the perfect way to celebrate an American victory. I had no idea that it would create a tradition that still exists today in 1967, so it was a very special moment. Ford Motor Company had made it clear that it could build race cars as good as any in the world and that it could win the greatest race of all. There are hundreds of people participating in that victory. at all levels who are doing this this was impossible to put together such a program within a large company it is the only program I have ever known it did not have a budget because Henry said we would do it it was a good project for the company at the time, morale it was very high if you felt very proud to be a part of it it was a big part of my whole career as a driver and as an American not an American team and the team was American even though it's from Texas yeah it was a big win yeah for me he won Indy a couple of weeks before that with Ford power and then Ford fire half there for me it was a great big honor to get to Hilum on time.
I can say that it was my first last time and without planning to go back to be able to say that the last time I was here I won the race and that's it.
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