Ford Chip Ganassi Racing has revealed the four drivers that will spearhead its two-car World Endurance Championship entry in 2016.
Andy Priaulx, Marino Franchitti, Stefan Mücke and Olivier Pla will take on the full nine-round WEC season, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Ford is entering the World Endurance Championship for the first time as a manufacturer, joining Ferrari, Aston Martin and Porsche in the GTE-Pro class with its new Ford GT.
The WEC entry will run in tandem with Ford’s two-car IMSA Sportscar Championship effort, which will feature Richard Westbrook, Dirk Muller, Joey Hand and Ryan Briscoe. Both sets of entries will combine in June to form a four-car assault on the GTE-Pro category at Le Mans.
“Make no mistake, we are racing to win,” said Dave Pericak, Ford Performance global director. “To compete at this level you need the best car, the best team and the best drivers, and we have selected Stefan, Olivier, Andy and Marino to drive the Ford GT to take on the best in the world.”
“I’m excited to be at team HQ in the UK to launch the WEC team,” added Chip Ganassi, owner of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing. “Just like when we announced the Ford GT drivers for the Weathertech Sportscar Championship last month, we’ve again chosen drivers with heart, speed and proven endurance racing credentials. It’s a global team running in two championships and I can’t wait for the racing to begin.”
Meet the Drivers
Andy Priaulx joins Ford having recently ended a 13 year contract with BMW. The Guernsey-born racer is renowned in both GT and touring cars, having won the FIA World Touring Car Championship three times and recently finished second in class in the European Le Mans Series.
“A new project is always exciting but for me to be driving for Ford in the WEC is just on another level,” said Priaulx. “Any motorsport fan will remember the iconic Ford GT40 cars of the past, and for me to be part of this programme 50 years after Ford’s historic win at Le Mans is such a privilege.”
Marino Franchitti is an equally experienced driver, and a specialist in endurance competition. The 2014 Sebring 12 Hours winner will make his full-season WEC debut this year for Ford, and his sixth start at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“From my first test in the Ford GT I fell in love with it and just wanted to drive it more and more,” said Franchitti. “The car feels great to drive; the new LMGTE rules certainly move the performance of a GT car to new levels and Ford and their partners have built a fantastic car.”
German GT ace Stefan Mücke is the most experienced WEC driver of the quartet, having formed an integral part of Aston Martin Racing’s GTE-Pro assault since 2012. The 34 year old will make his race debut with the Ford GT at January’s Daytona 24 Hours.
“Le Mans is a very special race for every driver. It is the one that we all want to win because it is such a difficult thing to do,” said Mücke. “I have come close in the past and now I hope that with Ford we can go all the way.”
Olivier Pla will make his WEC GTE debut after spending recent seasons plying his trade in the prototype ranks. The quick Frenchman was a part of Nissan’s 2015 LMP1 program, and has multiple LMP2 podiums to his name including a second place finish at Le Mans in 2013.
“It’s a huge honour for me to represent Ford – the Ford GT is a very special car and it is a privilege for me to drive it,” said Pla. “The level of competition is going to be incredibly high in WEC and I can’t wait to race.”
Ford Chip Ganassi Racing will begin its 2016 WEC campaign at Silverstone in April. The team is also expected to run at the official Prologue test, which takes place at Paul Ricard in late March. Chip Ganassi Racing will begin its sportscar season this weekend, as its two Riley-Ford DPs and Ford GTs take part in the official pre-Daytona 24 test session on January 9-11.