Strong start for the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing quartet ahead of 24 hours of Le Mans

by Robert Jones

The four-car Ford factory team will lineup in second, sixth, ninth and tenth in the GTE Pro class for tomorrow’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, with the #67 car leading the way.

Harry Tincknell, Andy Priaulx and Jonathan Bomarito had put the Ford GT UK car on provisional pole on Wednesday night, but were pipped during Thursday’s running by the Aston Martin team led by Nicki Thiim

With the team having four cars in contention, and expectations high within the team, the drivers will be hoping to convert this into a great result, as the 2019 Le Mans race will be the final entry for the team as a full works program. 

Speaking after qualifying Tincknell said: “The car did everything I asked of it and if you think back to this time last year we were practically turning the car inside out between sessions, but this time we have a really solid platform.”

“It’s a good race car and a good qualifying car and although it’s a shame to make a little mistake to miss out on pole, I’m delighted with second.” 

Running the second car and first of the USA team, is the lineup of Sebastian Bourdais, Dirk Muller and Joey Hand, and they will lineup sixth on the grid, which Hand is happy with after the two-day qualifying: “We thought we would like be in the top-eight because you don’t want to get too deep in the field.”

“This is a tough group of GTE Pro guys and cars. It’s a 24-hour race, but it’s a 24-hour sprint race now. We’d like to move it closer to the front early in the race. It’s so tough to get a clean lap in during the night here.”

Credit: Ford Chip Ganassi Racing

The third Ford team on the grid, is the second UK team car of Olivier Pla, Stefan Mucke and Billy Johnson. Mucke set the fastest lap in the #66 car and is positive after the race trim progress made: “We worked on our race set up for the rest of the session before Olivier had another go at the end. Unfortunately, he caught traffic so we are starting somewhere in the middle but we know our pace is better than that.”

“We will now review everything to make sure we maximize our race set up and to be as prepared as we can possibly be for the race.”

The last Car of the four and last in line, is the hugely experienced team of Richard Westbrook, Ryan Briscoe and five-time Indycar champion Scott Dixon

It wasn’t the qualifying position they had hoped for, and Briscoe thought that traffic was one of the major reasons why: “I think we had a third place time going early in the session, but we got caught up in traffic and never could get back to that in the night with the traffic and yellows and such.”

“The car was strong on new tires, so it’s disappointing to be where we are because we had some speed. We need to work on the set-up a little more, but the important thing was the speed was there, and that was promising.” 

With the top five positions in the LMGTE Pro class split between five different manufactures, it promises to be one of the most contested battles for victory in recent years.

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