Let us forever celebrate May Day as the day the Ford GT officially came back with its first victory at this weekend’s IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship race at Laguna Seca—with a Ferrari 488 GTE coming in second, no less. Prepare your face, Le Mans: America’s newest and most radical supercar finally won.
The Ford GT race cars have struggled with some teething issues since their debut. One got stuck in sixth gear at Daytona, and the other car at Daytona had brake, traction control and kill switch issues.
One of the cars in their World Endurance Championship effort had a gear selection issue where they only had third and fourth gear for qualifying at the 6 Hours of Silverstone. More recently, one of the IMSA Ford GTs was flaming on road dead at Long Beach.
That first race at Daytona proved one thing, though: when the Ford GTs work, they’re quick. This weekend, the GTs proved that they can still be quick while being miserly on fuel.
Fuel mileage was critical for the relatively short two-hour races at Laguna Seca. The Ford GTs qualified second and third, but wouldn’t finish that high if they had to spend all their time in the pits.
The last 1 hour, 17 minute stint by Richard Westbrook in the race-winning No. 67 was done on one tank of fuel, according to Sportscar365. Laguna Seca’s fuel-hungry uphill sections made this tough and he had to drive back from an unexpectedly long pit stop when the car wouldn’t go into neutral. The car dropped six positions during the long stop, but Westbrook was able to make them up and get back to the front.
Westbrook explained the madness of such a feat to Sportscar365:
The team immediately gave me a fuel number and I said, “Oh my God they’re nuts!” But we did it.
It was just a real race of trying to keep some sort of pace in the car and get the fuel number, which was really difficult in the beginning.
Managing to stay in front of the rest of the field while hoping the “eco” part of EcoBoost wasn’t just marketing nonsense is no small feat.
While the GT still encountered one issue with the car not getting into neutral, this was at least a problem the No. 67 could drive away from and make up, so I say it counts as an improvement. The No. 66 would have had a shot at the podium next to the No. 67, only a late-race splash-and-dash of fuel for No. 66 dropped it back to a sixth place finish.
Second place in the class went to the brand-new Ferrari car, the No. 68 488 GTE of Scuderia Corsa. Rounding out the podium was the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR, who thankfully did not pull any shenanigans this weekend.
Does this mean the Ford GTs are ready for Le Mans, though? It’s a promising sign that the GTs’ weekend went relatively trouble-free, but yesterday’s Continental Monterey Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (whew, #brands) was only one twelfth of the duration of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
This weekend’s WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps should be a slightly better indicator as to whether these cars are really ready for the biggest show in racing.