Book review: 'A Big Ask: Ford's Triumphant Return to Le Mans'

Book review: 'A Big Ask: Ford's Triumphant Return to Le Mans'

Published Jan. 16, 2017 1:58 p.m. ET

While next weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona will bring the Ford GT program full-circle, with the American supercar returning to the site of its competition debut 12 months ago, the definitive story of Ford’s victorious return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans is already in print.

“A Big Ask: The Story of Ford’s Triumphant Return to Le Mans” by acclaimed motorsports journalist David Phillips recounts the the conception, development and buildup of the Blue Oval’s factory GTE program, leading to the French Endurance classic, where Ford scored a historic class victory on the 50th anniversary of its first overall Le Mans win.

The 220-page paperback book, which is also now available in Kindle format on Amazon, provides an insider’s view into the Ford GT program, with a level of detail that will not likely ever be rivaled on this subject.

Phillips, a former IndyCar and sports car racing beat reporter, spent the first half of last year embedded with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, chronicling the ups and downs that came with the rollout of the program, both in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and FIA World Endurance Championship.

The story, however, centers around Le Mans, and Ford’s four-car GTE-Pro effort that took the fight to the established GT manufacturers, and won in its first year back, albeit in controversial fashion.

Phillips doesn’t shy away from the major talking points, including Balance of Performance, sandbagging allegations, and the late and post-race protests lodged between FCGR and Risi Competizione, in what shaped this year’s race.

Chapter 16, titled “Epilogue I” meticulously details the controversy surrounding the Risi Ferrari’s non-functional leader lights system, and post-race protests with full accuracy, with the author establishing the facts and not interjecting his own opinion.

Some of the most enjoyable aspects of the book, however, are the previously untold stories from crew members and support staff, typically labeled as the “unsung heroes” of the program.

Tales from newly appointed team manager Mel Harder, “Le Mans Expert” Thierry Lecourt and Multimatic’s Peter Gibbons were particularly interesting, as well as previously untold details on Chip Ganassi’s once-secret “Magic Mountain” tunnel in Pennsylvania, which Mark Paxton oversees.

From the car’s first rollout at Calabogie Motorsports Park in Ontatio, through Le Mans and the the UK-based WEC team’s maiden class win at Fuji Speedway, every major aspect of Ford’s first year is detailed brilliantly.

Whether you’re a longtime Ford fan, or just someone who wants to get the definitive history into sports car racing’s latest powerhouse factory program, “A Big Ask” is certainly worth your time.

A Big Ask: The Story of Ford’s Triumphant Return to Le Mans
ISBN: 1483585689
David Phillips
$34.95 (Paperback)
$6.15 (Amazon Kindle)

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