Racing is a natural part of the human spirit. Whether we’re racing on foot, in a pool, on bicycles, on horses, in carriages or in super powered race cars the racing we do is fun, exhilarating and brings us the contest and competition we crave. The idea of the fastest is always the best is as old as time and gives credence to the saying “I don’t need to out run the bear chasing me, I only have to out run you.” Racing has been around and has been the way we measure our worth in many ways.
Think about it; no matter what you do you’re always racing against something when you’re put in a position to compete. When the invention of the automobile came about and vehicles that could drive fast began to be created one of the most famous races in the world was created in Europe. This race is the 24 Hours of LeMans and its held every June on the Circuit de la Sarthe just outside of LeMans, France. This was originally a race designed for early automakers to show off the reliability of their cars but became the ultimate race and the one more automakers have tried to enter and master than any other.
While this was mostly a European race for decades, the early 1960s saw American brands make their way to the race. Chevrolet was the first to enter the race in 1960 and it showed up with four cars and finished in a much better position than expected. While these cars didn’t make it on the podium the finish for Chevrolet of eighth behind several Ferrari 250 Gt SWBs and an Aston Martin DBR1 showed that Chevrolet was a brand to take seriously and they were on their way up the performance ladder.
Ford had a different reason and goal when entering LeMans. in the 1960s Henry Ford II failed to takeover Ferrari at the last minute which enraged him and put him on the path to humiliate Ferrari with the goal to beat this brand in the race Ferrari had dominated for many years. This is how the original GT40 was born and entered in the race. The results from 1964 and 1965 were less than ideal but when Carroll Shelby took over and put some of the best racers in American history behind the wheel the GT40 finished the 1966 race with a 1-2-3 finish, sweeping the podium. This car won again in 1967 and 1968 before Ford bowed out of the race for nearly five decades.
Chevrolet came back to the race before Ford did and since 2000 Chevrolet has dominated the race with eight wins in sixteen years with the first one coming in 2001. Ford on the other hand hasn’t been back to LeMans until 2016 when they brought the newly developed Ford GT that was built to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the podium domination at this race.
The 2016 season shaped out to be one of trial and tribulation for both teams. Chevrolet had won the LeMans race half the time it has been on the circuit since 2000 but the Ford GT was there in 2016 to showcase what it could do and see if it could have a little luck and win the most prestigious race in history once again. For all the stories told the drama and build up couldn’t have been any greater as the GT did finish the 2016 24 Hours of LeMans in the top spot, providing a spectacular way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the winning occasion.