Ford Performance and Roush Yates are working on EcoBoost for Le Mans
By Steve Turner
Photos courtesy of Ford Performance
Back when we visited the Ford Performance tech center in Charlotte, North Carolina, we only had an inkling of where Ford’s new commitment to intertwining its racing efforts with its production vehicles. Certainly there was no hint that the Ford was heading back to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in an all-new Ford GT powered by the same EcoBoost V-6 that had won both the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring.
However, now that the picture is becoming clearer, the excitement is building. Naturally, it is most exciting for the people charged with bringing a race-ready engine program to Le Mans.
“I’ve been in racing and motorsports for 13 years now at Ford. When we started the DP program with the twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6, at the time it was a change, because our group had been almost primarily focused on NASCAR before that, so it was really a lot of fun,” Dave Simon, Ford Performance race engine engineer, said. “But at the start of the program we didn’t fully grasp was how close we’d be able to work with the production engineers that developed the production 3.5 liter engine. It opened a whole new opportunity to collaborate with the guys who had designed and modeled and tested the original production engine.”
“Then, as we were developing the higher horsepower engine for (the No. 01 Ford EcoBoost prototype), that went directly into the Ford GT,” he added. “We were able to give back what we had learned in racing to the production side, and that was turning the race engine into an engine for the Ford GT production car. Then, along with that, we were planning on going back to Le Mans to race with the Ford GT, too.”
You can get a bit more insight on the Ford GT program and its Le Mans intentions from Ford Performance Director Dave Pericak in this video…
Of course, Ford Performance is working with its partner Roush Yates Racing Engines, which helped developed those engines that won at Daytona and Sebring. This company offers racing engine development for almost any racing disciplines you can think of, and it has already pushed the envelope of the stock 3.5-liter EcoBoost architecture.
“To me, the most satisfying thing is to see racing give back to production,” Doug Yates, CEO of Roush Yates, said. “That’s really why racing started, and it’s gratifying to see that come full circle.”
“Our ability to work with the Ford engineers and use the tools at Ford to develop the engine to a higher level of performance than what would normally be done has been invaluable,” Jamie McNaughton, Technology Director for Roush Yates, added. “The efficiency of how we work together now is the way that race teams and winning race programs are supposed to operate with OEMs.”
You can watch one of those engines run on the dyno right here…
For anyone doubting the performance potential of the EcoBoost V-6, you have to admit that these engines have yet to disappoint. However, the stage gets much bigger as Ford moves its sports car ambitions across the pond. To that end, the engineers at both companies are aware of the pressures the engines will feel both on track and in the public eye.
“Anyone who’s a race fan knows there are those few gems of races; The crown jewels of motorsports. Le Mans may be sitting at the top. We’ve had a lot of success with winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Sebring, which are huge emotional moments because it takes a lot to win those events, but personally, to go back to Le Mans, it’s the most exciting thing I’ve probably ever done or will do in my motorsports career. Most of us here at Ford and at Roush Yates will tell you the same thing,” Dave Simon explained. “You can’t ignore what we’re doing. You think about it every day, but at the same time it doesn’t change your development process. We don’t work any harder to develop this engine because it’s going to Le Mans than we do to develop at engine going to Mosport, or any other track. We’re in it to win, no matter where we’re going. Our process has been the same, but at the same time you know where we’re going and we know the stakes, so we hope that we’re doing everything we need to do to make sure the engines will finish the race and at the same time be competitive.”
Naturally, with the GT’s reappearance at Le Mans coinciding with the anniversary of the GT40’s triumph over Ferrari the stakes are high.
“Obviously as racers, we all know the story of the battle at Le Mans between Ford and Ferrari and Ford’s success there,” Doug Yates said. “We feel honored to carry that on 50 years later. At the same time, we know the expectations and we know the challenge of what’s in front of us, and we’re excited about that challenge and look forward to continuing Ford’s story at Le Mans.”