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Ford GT40 MKII 1966
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Ford GT40 MKII 1966

Alessio Adamo
by AlessioAdamo on 6 Oct 2023

Hi everyone, I'm a motoring and racing enthusiast and I wanted to build this Ford, one of the best performing and most beautiful cars I know and I want to tell you the story of how it dominated the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans

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LE MANS 1966

Hi everyone, today I'm here to tell you a story. It's not just any story but we're talking about the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966.

Let's start from 1963.

Henry Ford II had learned that Ferrari, the famous Italian automotive company, was bankrupt.

He sent an envoy to Modena to negotiate and merge the two companies but Enzo Ferrari refused.

Henry Ford didn't take it well and so he decided to build a racing car that could beat Ferrari to the finish line for the most prestigious race in the world of that era.

The 24 Hours of Le Mans

In 1964, Ford began the design, construction and testing to beat the Maranello team in the most prestigious race in history.

In 1965, the Ford GT40 MK X was presented and made its debut.

On race day Ford fielded six cars against Ferrari.

The Fords started very fast, reaching 320 km/h on the main straight of the Circuit de la Sarthe, impressing Enzo Ferrari with the majestic speed achieved.

Almost twelve hours had passed since the start of the competition, the Fords suffered gearbox and brake problems, forcing them to retire.

Henry Ford spoke very clearly with Carroll Shelby and gave him carte blanche to direct the Fords at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966, doing everything he could to beat the horse's racing team.

Enzo Ferrari spent every penny for the 1966 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans hunting and seeking perfection.

Enzo's choice to build a new car was dictated by the sight of the monstrous speed that Ford had achieved the year before.

The Ferrari 330 P3 was built in Maranello and the driver was chosen: for number 20 Ludovico Scarfiotti and Mike Parkes and for number 21 Lorenzo Bandini and Jean Guichet, two very strong and very fast crews.

The Fords, for the 1966 Circuit de la Sarthe edition, were driven by the Shelby American Team under Carroll Shelby and his racing team.

Ford GT40 MKII number 1 driven by Ken Miles and Denny Hulme

Ford GT40 MKII number 2 driven by Bruce McLaren (Founder of the Mclaren car company) and Chris Amon

Ford GT40 MKII number 5 driven by Ronnie Bucknum and Dick Hutcherson

At the start of the 24 hours, the drivers run to their cars, get in, start their engines and take off.

At the beginning of the first lap the number 1 driven by Ken Miles encounters a problem with the door and is forced to stop, they fix the door and set off again.

The Fords are very fast and are engaged in a close battle against the Prancing Horse cars.

A few hours into the race, the Ferrari number 20 driven by Scarfiotti retired due to an accident with another car.

The sun goes down in Le Mans and the rain comes.

Due to the latter, problems began for the teams still in the race, many had to slow down the pace due to the high overheating of the braking system, including the Ferraris and Fords, all except one, the number 1 which continued to push for catch up with Bandini's Ferrari number 21 which was leading the standings followed by the three Fords.

During the night, the Ford driven by Denny Hulme stopped in the pits for a driver change and to change the braking system.

The number 1 loses a lot of time in the garage, being lapped twice by the Ferrari remaining in the race.

Enter Ken, ready to drive the GT40 until late morning.

He starts pushing again to take that first place, occupied by number 21.

After hours he manages to double up and quickly returns behind the Ferrari.

On the straight of the Circuit de la Sarthe, Ken joins Bandini.

Side by side, with both riders with their feet on the accelerator, the unexpected happens.

Bandini breaks the engine in the middle of the straight.

Ken didn't believe his eyes and now all he needed to do was drive the last few hours, finish the race and cross the finish line.

Unfortunately our story does not have a happy ending.

Ford officials asked the ACO to tie the three cars to the finish line together, and the ACO agreed.

The No. 1 Ford led the No. 2 Ford by four laps.

Denny takes the car for the final pit stop for a driver change and refueling. Before Ken got into the car for the final sprint, he was informed of the idea they had and that he should slow down to help equalize the three cars.

Ken was furious, he didn't agree with the plan but he said he was fine with a draw and so he left again.

The three drivers, Ken, Bruce and Dick were asked to cross the finish line together in the parade so as to win first place together.

Unfortunately this was not the case.

The ACO changed its mind and told Ford officials that there could be no level playing field.

As instructed, Ken slowed down to close the gap and catch up with the two Fords behind him.

As they approached the finish line, Miles and McLaren almost appeared to be side by side. Before Miles checked, McLaren lunged forward and then Miles lunged forward again.

Everyone thought that the number 1 Ford had won but at the moment of the podium they signaled to the number 2 Ford to place itself in the winner's box.

Charlie Agapiou and Carroll Shelby said at the end of the race in front of the press: "Ken was way ahead of the race. He would be the only man in history to win Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans. He should have won it. He did exactly what he was told and eventually slowed down on the rear chute and everywhere else to let the McLaren disengage. He followed his orders and then got screwed. This is what happened."


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