The #66 Ford GT driven by Sebastien Bourdais, Joey Hand, and Dirk Muller came just short of completing the triumvirate of endurance racing wins with a second-place finish at the 12 Hours of Sebring.
Heading into IMSA’s 12 Hours of Sebring Ford Performance and Chip Ganassi Racing were on a quest to capture a victory to complete a set of endurance crown jewels already collected in Le Mans and Daytona. While the team’s Ford GTs qualified in the first two spots, endurance racing is a hard road and they ended up just shy of the goal with a second-place finish.
In the closing hour of the race, it looked as though all hope was lost as the Ford GTs were in the third and fourth spots with just 30 minutes left in the grueling race. It was then that a Porsche team suffered a drive-through penalty and put the EcoBoost-powered supercars back in the podium mix. However, the rival Corvettes proved too daunting a foe at the end.
Likewise, the #67 GT — driven by Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon and Richard Westbrook — was in position for a podium finish at Sebring before it was spun out by another competitor.
“It’s always frustrating to get second,” Joey Hand, co-driver of the #66 Ford GT, said. “We got beat by a car that was just faster at night. It wasn’t from a lack of trying. I threw everything at it. At the risk of running my tires off I went for it and thought that I’d get by and head them off. When it’s all said and done, if we can’t win this race we want to be thinking about championships. I think it was a good day. You want to have that win to get the three and keep the streak alive. That would have been a fun thing. When it’s all said and done, we’ve won some big races over the last year. I can’t be too disappointed.
While it was certainly frustrating to come up just short for Joey and his co-drivers Dirk Muller and Sebastien Bourdais, it was even tougher for their teammates in the #67 Ford GT. Drivers Richard Westbrook, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon had the car in the third position in the closing laps of the race when racing became rubbing.
“To get spun out of the podium on the very last lap is pretty disappointing to be honest,” Ryan said. “We had a great car all day and were really in the fight for it. It was just flat-out all 12 hours here at Sebring. We just missed having the winning balance today but we’ll hang in there and learn from this. It was a great team effort with all three cars this weekend. Thanks to everyone at Ford and the Ganassi team. The cars all ran flawlessly. I’m really proud of the effort everyone put in.”
Perhaps most frustrating of all, the WEC Ford GT, #68, travelled all the way to North America to help the cause only to fight not one by two tire failures.
Likewise, the lone WEC Ford GT entry, #68, made the trip across the pond only to fight not one but two tires that lost air during competition.
“We’re pleased to finish,” George Howard-Chappell, team principal for the two-car FIA WEC half of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, said. “I think the team did a great job coming here and putting such a great effort out. We led the race for quite a bit of time and were just a bit unlucky with the two punctures. It’s just too much to come back from.”
The European GT will return to its usual #66 to begin the FIA WEC season at The Prologue, the official pre-season test for the series in Monza this week, while the two North American GT will look to return to their winning ways in GTLM competition at Long Beach, California, from April 7-8.