The FIA World Endurance Championship roars back into life at the Nürburgring in Germany this weekend after a short post-Le Mans break. The Ford Chip Ganassi team has its sights set on championship success and currently leads the FIA Endurance Trophy for LM GTE Pro Teams and sits third in the World Endurance Cup for GT Manufacturers.
Brian Joss – “We recently announced that Ford is here for the long haul,” Ford Performance global director, Dave Pericak said, referencing the recent announcement that the Ford GT race programme will run until 2019. “Our intentions are very clear in that we are here to win. With the IMSA team on a winning streak, we’re excited for the WEC guys to get back on track at the Nürburgring. We know it will be difficult but we are ready for the challenges that lie ahead of us.”
The driver line-up in the #66 Ford GT has dropped to a two-man from a three-man crew as Le Mans third driver Billy Johnson has returned to racing in the U.S. With their fourth place finish at Le Mans earning them full WEC points (as the top three finishers were not WEC entrants) Germany’s Stefan Mücke and Frenchman Olivier Pla are leading the World Endurance Cup for GT Drivers.
“Le Mans was a great success for everyone involved in this programme,” Mücke said. “It was an amazing effort by the whole team and it makes you really proud to be part of it. Now it is time for us to get the first WEC win and of course fight for the championship. We are leading the driver’s championship, which is a great feeling, but the season is long and the competitors are strong. Of course we want to win races but we also need to be consistent and collect as many points as possible.
“I really like the Nürburgring,” he continued. “Last year the atmosphere was really good there with all of the enthusiasm we felt from the spectators so I’m hoping it will be the same this weekend. The track is interesting, not just for us drivers but because the characteristics of it provide some good overtaking opportunities so we should be able to put on a good show. At the Nürburgring you have a good mixture of everything: slow technical sections with high and medium-speed corners. The handling of the Ford GT is well balanced so I’m sure we can fight for a podium position.”
The drivers of the #67 Ford GT had a tough time at Le Mans, where they had to deal with a gearbox problem just before the start of the race that left them on the back foot. A ninth-place finish was not representative of the effort put in by the #67 crew. British racer Harry Tincknell has recently re-signed with the Ford squad and will join fellow Brits Andy Priaulx and Marino Franchitti at the Nürburgring this weekend.
“First of all, I’m very happy to be staying with Ford as it’s a very exciting time to be a Ford GT driver!” Tincknell said. “The Nürburgring is one of my favourite tracks and somewhere I always seem to go well. It really has a bit of everything so you need a car that is strong in all areas to be competitive. I think we have that in the Ford GT and I’m looking forward to going wheel to wheel with our competitors.
“There are some big braking zones into the first corner and final chicane, which are excellent overtaking opportunities as they precede long straights. The first sector is quite tight and twisty and you have to have your line spot on in order to be fast. The Schumacher Esses are really fast and should be a good test for the aerodynamics of our car and I’ll be intrigued to see if we can do it flat out.”
The track action gets underway at the 5.148-kilometre Nürburgring circuit on Friday, July 22, when the cars take to the track for the first free practice session at 12:00 CET. The 6 Hours of Nürburgring race will begin at 1pm on Sunday July 24.