FORMER LE MANS 24 HOUR RACE CLASS WINNER TINCKNELL RELISHING FORD'S RETURN TO FRENCH 'MARATH
Britain's Harry Tincknell has set his sights on achieving a podium finish on Ford's historic return to the Le Mans 24 Hours later this month (18-19 June). Tincknell plus co-drivers Andy Priaulx and Marino Franchitti aim to steer their No67 Ford GT to success in the world's most famous, most gruelling and most difficult sports car race in the world.
The British trio has posted a fourth (Silverstone, GB) and second (Spa, B) in the opening two races of the FIA World Endurance Championship since April but Le Mans is four times the length of a regular WEC race, features a bumper field of 60-cars, driven by 180 drivers, on an intensely demanding 8.4-mile track in front of a crowd likely to be in excess of 250,000. 2016 not only marks the return of the Ford marque on the world sports car stage but is 50 years since the manufacturer's historic 1-2-3 outright race finish with the Ford GT40.
For Tincknell, this year's twice-around-the-clock marathon will mark his third Le Mans since switching to sports cars after a successful career in single-seater racing. In 2014, Harry qualified second fastest in LMP2, won his class with a stunning drive and finished an excellent fifth overall all on his Le Mans debut. Tincknell drove the LMP1 Nissan GT-R LM NISMO last year and proved to be the fastest driver for the Japanese manufacturer.
The four Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs, competing for honours in the 14-car GTE Pro field in this year's blue riband WEC race, along with the entire Le Mans entry, attended a one-day test to set-up their cars to the unique demands of the French La Sarthe track today (5 Jun).
Tincknell returns to his UK home in Devon tomorrow (6 June) before heading back to Le Mans on Saturday (11 June) in readiness for the team's scrutineering session technical checks and administration staged in the town centre on Sunday afternoon (12 June). On track action begins on Wednesday with practice (1500-1900) then qualifying (2100-2300) which continues on Thursday (1800-2000 & 2100-2300). A final 45mins warm-up on Saturday (0800-0845) precedes the race start at 1400.
* Times are UK, 1hr behind local)
"The Le Mans 24 Hours is the jewel in motor racing's crown and I can't believe I am going back there for a third time. Le Mans is a very special event and one that will stay with me forever having won on my debut in 2014 driving a sports-prototype. Twenty-four hours of racing, in front of 250,000 fans, makes for a very special atmosphere and the entire week is such a buzz. This year I'm competing for GTE Pro class honours and am very honoured to be racing a Ford GT, 50 years on from its 1-2-3 finish. To be a part of that history is something that you dream of as a boy.
"This will be my third race in the Ford having achieved fourth place at Silverstone on the car's FIA World Endurance Championship debut in April and heading to Le Mans off the back of second place in the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. The confidence in the Ford Chip Ganassi team is building all of the time. Our class is very competitive though and we are under no illusions that it will be very tough at the front. The Ford GT has shown good reliability and is getting faster but we must remember Le Mans will only be the car's third WEC race and we are still a very new team.
"Le Mans is one of my favourite tracks and I love the fact that half of it is run on closed public roads which means you only get two chances each year to drive on it today's official test and then during race week. The Porsche Curves are an awesome set of corners at the end of the track, very high speed and flowing. Driving the GT down the Mulsanne Straight was also a very special experience. The build-up to the event is incredible with the driver's parade in the town centre on Friday evening, a huge crowd making all of the competitors feel like superstars. The fans have been so welcoming to the Ford program this year and hopefully with their support we can achieve a really great result on our comeback to Le Mans.
"Today's test allowed the team to gather data that they will go away and process before race week vital information about the car on the Le Mans track that will allow us to fine-tune the Ford for when we return. We encountered no major issues with any of the four Ford GTs during the test which bodes well for race weekend."