Ford GT at Le Mans: ‘We want to be at the front,’ says Ganassi

Chip Ganassi currently fields teams in NASCAR, IndyCar, TUDOR Championship and Global Rallycross.

While having achieved victories in the Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500, Rolex 24 at Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring, Chip Ganassi Racing will attempt to add another iconic race to that list in 2016, by leading Ford’s return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ganassi was confirmed Friday as the team that will campaign Ford’s factory GT program in both the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and FIA World Endurance Championship, including the team’s debut in the French endurance classic.

“Everyone said to me, ‘You need to go to Le Mans. You need to go do that one too.’ I said, ‘Yeah, great but you’ve got to wait for the right [opportunity],’" Ganassi said Friday during the program’s formal announcement at Le Mans.

“Talking about landing on your feet under the right program. I’m really excited to be with these guys.”

The dual championship program will see Ganassi expand operations to Europe, with a U.K. base for its two-car FIA WEC GTE-Pro effort that will be supported by development partner Multimatic.

Ganassi said the FIA WEC effort will see a mix of Multimatic and Ganassi personnel, led by former Prodrive team principal George Howard-Chappell.

“I think we have a pretty good handle on things,” he said. “We’ll have two bases, one probably in the UK and one in the States.

“I’ve got a lot of help from George Howard-Chappell. He’ll be heading up the European situation.

“I think it would be a little too rambunctious to come over [to Le Mans], as an American-only team cold. Obviously we have some people that have quite a bit of experience here.”

Ford GT to return to Le Mans

While there will be two-car, full-season efforts for both championships, Ganassi said the number of cars for its maiden Le Mans assault remains to-be-determined.

It is expected to be anywhere from two to four cars.

“Any time you have a new car, you’re probably better off having multiple cars doing the development,” Ganassi said. “You’re learning at a faster pace with multiple cars.”

While drivers were not announced Friday, both Scott Pruett and Joey Hand are expected to be part of the lineup, with Pruett having already undertaken on-track development work of the Multimatic-built car.

Ganassi said he also wouldn’t rule out seeing some of his drivers from other series make occasional appearances in the cars, similar to what’s been seen with its Ford EcoBoost-powered Riley DP effort.

The future of the team’s TUDOR Championship Prototype program, meanwhile, also remains to-be-determined.

The DP program served as the incubator for the Ford GT, particularly with the development of the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 that will be used in the new-for-2016 GTE car.

“We’ve been talking about this for quite a while so it’s been in the oven for a while baking,” Ganassi said. “We probably first started talking about this two or two and-a-half years ago.”

As for the team’s goals, there’s only one thing in mind, and that’s to win.

“We want to come here and be at the front,” Ganassi said. “We don’t go to any races we don’t want to win. That’s obviously what we want to do.

“If I didn’t think we could win, I wouldn’t have undertaken the program.”