Mechanical issues challenged the Ford EcoBoost teams at Daytona
By Steve Turner
Heading into the Rolex 24 at Daytona all the hype was about the debut of the Ford GT its first endurance race. The grueling 24-hour race would prove an ideal setting to see if the new race car was ready for its historic return to Le Mans in June. It turned out that the first race found the GT’s weak link—the transmission. Even the proven EcoBoost prototypes had their issues with both cars struggling with brake system woes.
“We certainly had our share of reliability issues, and that is not uncommon in a brand new car’s debut. As we have said, the first time these two particular cars hit the road was literally at the Roar (Before the Rolex 24) test here a couple weeks ago. Aspects of our total testing program had gone very well, so I think we’re a little surprised at some of the reliability issues we have had,” said Raj Nair, executive vice president, Global Product Development, and chief technical officer, Ford Motor Company. “As we get into diagnosing the issues, some of them are very specific to what is going on in a race…coming in for a tire change and the wheel hitting a brake line and breaking it. Running three hours under our caution engine calibration (when the car is under yellow flag), and then finding out that is actually causing a problem. We’re still diagnosing some of the stuff that was happening. Maybe even the aspect of the way the in-car TV cameras were wired, which we obviously don’t run during testing, and that may have impacted some of our power feeds and noise in the system. Those kinds of things you aren’t going to find except in a race environment.”
While the hopes were high for the GT to have a strong showing in Daytona, this race really was a trial run for a brand-new race car before Ford pushes all its chips in with a historic return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“The good thing about it all, and the thing we are pleased about, is the car is showing some pace, it is showing some opportunity, and overall we are happy that we have a fast car and we need to work on reliability,” Raj added. “That’s a lot better than having a slow car that’s reliable, but you don’t know how to get speed out of it. Overall, this is racing and this is what can happen in racing. If we don’t win every race, we are disappointed, but at the same time we know how to fix our issues and we’ll be better the next time we come out.”
Despite the struggles the drivers had good things to say about how the Ford GT performed at Daytona. The number 66 GT actually led some laps early in the race before its transmission balked, and the 67 car also had transmission trouble. However, the Ganassi Racing teams got both cars repaired and back onto the track.
“For me, it was a pretty awesome day. I got to take the first start in this Ford GT. I got to lead the first laps with the Ford GT. The car drove well. We had a couple of little problems that set us back a few laps, but ultimately, the car was good and quick and had a good balance,” Joey Hand, driver of the number 66 Ford GT, said. “I think what we take away from this is we have a good race car, we have a good starting point, we finish these little issues and we’ll be major contenders in the long run.”
You can watch how the race began right here…
Ultimately the number 66 Ford GT crossed the finish line in the seventh position in the GT Le Mans class, while the number 67 Ford GT finished in the ninth position.
While just finishing such a race is an accomplishment for a new race car, it was the GT’s more experienced prototype cousins that fared better in the race, with the 01 prototype leading the race on seven different occasions.
“I love the Rolex 24. It’s my fourth time doing it, but actually the first time I’ve finished. My teammates, team, the mechanics, everyone did a fantastic job today. It was all going to plan. We were keeping it tidy, no mistakes. We knew we had a quick car and that showed with the lap times at the end, but unfortunately we lost a few laps with a small overheating issue,” Brendon Hartley, driver of the number 01 Ford EcoBoost Riley prototype, said. “Apart from that, I think it’s just unfortunate it happened so late. We got one lap back and that was from passing the leader. Great effort by everyone and I hope I’m back next year.”
Brake issues cost the 01 car laps, but similar brake troubles put the 02 prototype into the tires with less than three hours left in the race. The 01 EcoBoost prototype finished fifth overall and fifth in its class, while the 02 car finished seventh in class and 13th overall.
“I don’t think anyone should think of this race as a failure,” Global Director, Ford Performance Dave Pericak said. “It’s not the Cinderella story we were hoping for, but this is racing. I’d rather work the bugs out now, then later. Our team has been doing an amazing job of staying laser-focused during this race, and not getting discouraged. I can’t even believe how hard they were working. We will re-group, we will fix it, and then we will go out at Sebring and show what we can do. That’s what this is all about.”
Hear from Raj Nair what the teams learned at the Rolex 24 at Daytona…
IMSA Rolex 24 at Daytona 2016 Gallery