During this morning's World Endurance Championship press conference, FIA Endurance Commission President Sir Lindsay Owen Jones said "Ford has already announced their return to Le Mans, but not the WEC officially, but I think Gerard [Neveu] will be able to convince them to come back." Oh, really?
Ford has sort of admitted as such, though various quotes, confirmations, and other hum-hawing about the topic. But, you know, this gives a bit more legitimacy to that announcement. Just a bit.
Automobile Club l'Ouest Sporting Director Vincent Beaumesnil mentioned the 24 Hours of Le Mans expanding to sixty pits in the future, which is a huge field. The sport is growing, and super happy about the new manufacturers coming in.
Here's the moment where Jones lets it slip:
We already know that Ford said at NAIAS that they could have the Ford GT ready to race as soon as this year, likely racing in the TUDOR United SportsCar series. A return to Le Mans has been assumed to be set for 2016—fifty years after the Ford GT40's historic 1-2-3 finish at Le Mans—but Ford has been coy about releasing any details about that.
Chip Ganassi Racing is rumored to be leading Ford's endurance racing effort, and even they've been coy about Ford's plans for Le Mans. Ganassi driver Jamie McMurray even mentioned that he hoped Ganassi would consider their current talented squad of drivers "if one day Chip decides to go to Le Mans" in a post-race press conference at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The statement about Ford only planning on Le Mans makes sense given the statements made by Ford so far. It wasn't a new announcement per se, but it backs up the idea that they'll cut their teeth in America's endurance racing series before going back to Le Mans.
TUSC hopes to get more links with the World Endurance Championship going as well. The press conference also discussed the common prototype proposal with TUDOR United SportsCar for 2017, which is underway. Officials will be settling details at Sebring, and this means that teams like Wayne Taylor Racing who get picked for a Le Mans entry from TUSC won't be stuck without an car that works for the worldwide regulations.
Gerard Neveu, CEO of the World Endurance Championship, was specifically called out in Jones' quote as someone who needs to convince Ford to come to the WEC full-time. Perhaps a better working relationship between the TUSC and WEC in the future will convince Ford to expand into a full-season WEC entry once they get the program running. Yo, Ford! The WEC wants you over there. Hint, hint, super obvious hint.
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