Ford, Ganassi seek repeat at historic 12 Hours of Sebring
With a historic victory in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona and returning to the site of the Ford EcoBoost’s maiden win in TUDOR United SportsCar Championship competition, Ford Performance and Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (CGR) head into this weekend’s Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring with momentum on their side.
Twelve months ago, CGR gave Ford its first overall win at the famed Florida circuit since Jacky Ickx and Jackie Oliver’s triumph at the wheel of a Ford GT40 in 1969.
It marked a monumental occasion for Ford and Ganassi.
For Scott Pruett, who returns to Sebring this weekend at the wheel of the No. 01 Ford EcoBoost entry with Scott Dixon and new-for-2015 full-season co-driver Joey Hand, the race serves as a reminder of what both organizations have been able to achieve in the highly competitive Prototype class.
"Seeing the Ford ‘win’ banner go up at Sebring was awesome," he said. "It’s a reminder of what we’ve accomplished in a short amount of time. All the hard work and effort and energy by so many people.
"I think even more exciting is the fact we were able to win Sebring and Daytona in less than 12 months, as a team. You can’t really appreciate that unless you’ve lived it."
Pruett and Ganassi, though, haven’t been Ford’s only headliners at Sebring through the years.
Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby took their Shelby-American Ford GT40 X-1 roadster, a test car, to Ford’s first victory at Sebring in 1966, after then-race leader Dan Gurney (also in a Ford GT40) was disqualified for pushing his car across the finish line.
The result still marked a sweep of the overall podium for Ford, although 1966 also brought tragedy in the death of Bob McLean, following a single-car accident at the Hairpin. The remnants of the Comstock Racing GT40 were buried near the adjacent airport.
Mario Andretti and Bruce McLaren became Sebring winners the following year, giving Ford back-to-back victories at the former World War II airfield.
In all, Ford or Ford-powered cars have claimed four overall victories at Sebring, ranking the Detroit manufacturer fourth on the all-time win list for manufacturers in one of the world’s most demanding endurance races.
Can the Blue Oval do it again this weekend? With a season’s worth of developments to the twin-turbo 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, and the all-star lineup Ganassi has assembled, it would arguably be more of a shock if they weren’t in contention come 10:30 p.m. on Saturday.