|DAYTONA, FL, January 18, 2019 – Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s statistics at the last two Rolex 24 At Daytona events are nothing short of astounding. |
Between its two fulltime IMSA Ford GTs, the team led 1,196 out of 1,435 racing laps in the last two years – or, just over 5,000 miles around Daytona International Speedway’s storied oval/road course.
The two-time defending winners are anything but overconfident, though.
“We’ll definitely be walking into the paddock with a smile on our faces, knowing we can do this,” said Richard Westbrook, who won his first Rolex race in 2018 with co-drivers Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon in the No. 67 Ford GT. “We have another year under our belts. We’re working hard now on fine-tuning our car to the new Michelin tire, so I think confidence is going to be really high to try to defend our crown.”
In 2018, Ford GTs led 774 of 783 laps, leaving room for only two other competitor cars to see time at the front of the GTLM pack. Most of those laps led went to the No. 66, but the No. 67 was in the lead when it counted.
“It’s a good track for Ford,” Westbrook said. “It was always going to be a good track for the Ford GT. But rest assured, there’s no way the gap will be as comfortable this year. It’s so nice going in defending our crown and knowing our car’s going to be quick, but this race just seems to get bigger and bigger. The quality throughout the field in every class gets better and better. When I compare it to when I first did this race, it’s so different. It’s almost unrecognizable. It just gets stronger and the crowd gets bigger every year.”
Both the No. 67 and No. 66 Ford GTs will wear special throwback liveries in honor of IMSA’s 50th birthday. The No. 66 Ford GT of Joey Hand, Dirk Müller and Sébastien Bourdais will wear the colors of the Roush Racing Motorcraft Ford Mustang that John Jones, Wally Dallenbach Jr. and Doc Bundy drove to a GT1 victory at the Rolex 24 At Daytona in 1985. Jones won the IMSA championship title in the GTO category after dominating the competition that year.
Hand, Müller and Bourdais won the race in 2017 after leading 414 of 652 laps.
The No. 67 will carry a throwback tribute to current race team partner Castrol. The iconic green and red stripes are accented with the Castrol Edge logo and adapted to the Ford GT’s lines.
It’s the first time the Ford CGR Ford GT’s will sport special liveries.
“The Rolex 24 is always one of the biggest races on our calendar,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director of Ford Performance, motorsports. “Winning this race sets the whole year in motion on a positive note. Every year is different, though, with new competitors and adjustments, so it’s important that we all come in with a fresh view on things. Just because we’ve had success in the past doesn’t mean we can be comfortable.”
Ford CGR narrowly missed winning its first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship team and driver titles with the Ford GT in 2018. The five wins it earned clinched the manufacturer’s title for Ford, however. Hand and Müller also earned the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup title for the best-performing GTLM drivers in IMSA’s endurance races (Daytona/Sebring/Watkins Glen/Petit Le Mans).
The team recently completed a successful outing at IMSA’s official pre-season test, the Roar Before the Rolex 24, where they finished second (67) and third (66) in the special session that awards choice of garage space for the 24-hour race. Between prototype and GTLM, Chip Ganassi Racing has won the event overall or in class eight times.
“It’s clear that our car is a great car for Daytona,” Hand said. “The car was built for this type of track and the long straights there, and we’re wide open a long time, which really benefits our car. On top of that, it’s a great race for Ford CGR. They’ve won the race many times and it just seems like a place where it goes well. To have the first race of the year be at the track you feel most comfortable with is a good thing. Daytona is always a place I look forward to. To drive through the tunnel and be rolling into that track, that venue, is really a great way to start the season. The competition is always coming after you, but I think after winning two years in a row, people will really be coming after us. The GTLM series is difficult, with a lot of great competition, so we’ll see what happens.”
* Courtesy of Ford Performance