Ford planning a four-car effort at 2017 Rolex 24

Ford GT team photo ahead of the 2016 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. (Photo: Jakob Ebrey/LAT Photographic)
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Following its 24 Hours of Le Mans triumph last June, Ford is pulling out all the stops in quest of class victory in another twice-around-the-clock endurance classic, with the American manufacturer planning a four-car Ford GT effort for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Sportscar365 has learned that Ford Chip Ganassi Racing is preparing to enter all four of its cars in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener on Jan. 28-29, in what would mark the team’s biggest single-class, single-race effort in North America.

While a formal commitment or announcement has not yet been made, it’s understood preparations are underway, with the team’s FIA World Endurance Championship cars expected to be shipped to the U.S. following next weekend’s season finale in Bahrain for pre-race preparations.

Drivers from the team’s WEC program, plus some potential Ganassi NASCAR and IndyCar drivers, are expected to complete the four-car lineup in the GT Le Mans class.

When reached by Sportscar365, Ford Performance global director Dave Pericak didn’t confirm or deny the presence of a likely increased effort for Daytona.

“Our Ford team is completely focused on the remaining WEC schedule and are extremely proud and happy with our Ford GT performance worldwide,” Pericak told Sportscar365.

The Multimatic-built Ford GT made its competition debut in this year’s Rolex 24 and since went on to claim three WeatherTech Championship class victories, all with the No. 67 car of Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe, as well as the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais.

Its UK-based, Multimatic-run branch has also tasted success in the car’s first year, with class wins in the two recent WEC rounds at Fuji and Shanghai, both with Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell.

Ford’s expected increased effort for Daytona will come as significant boost to the GTLM class, which will again see factory or works-backed efforts from BMW, Porsche, Ferrari and defending champions Corvette Racing.