Ford’s GTs face early trouble at Rolex 24

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Daytona Beach, Florida — Ford Motor Co.’s two GT cars suffered punctured tires, broken brake lines and major transmission issues that put them in last place in their class through the first quarter of the Rolex 24 endurance race.

The No. 66 car started out of the gate well; It held the class lead for three minutes early and sat in third place an hour into the race. But the No. 67 car encountered problems 16 minutes in.

In its ninth lap, driver Ryan Briscoe lost significant speed and had to pit with the shifting issue. Pit crews worked on the car for about five or 10 minutes before it was taken back into the garage where Ford Performance executives including Raj Nair, Dave Pericak and Henry Ford III and team owner Chip Ganassi watched the team work on the issue.

Later in the race, the No. 67 car’s right rear tire was cut in two different instances due to a damaged diffuser rubbing on the tire and was forced to pit both times.

After its early position at the top of the pack, the No. 66 car came in for a routine pit stop to change tires and refuel. While changing tires, a brake line was damaged, causing the car to remain in the pit for just under 10 minutes. After the team replaced the brakes, Hand went back out on the track only to have engine issues moments later and had to re-pit. Both problems put the No. 66 car six laps down.

Later, the No. 66 car was forced off the track and into the garage for the same shifting issue that troubled its sister 67 car. A Ford Performance spokesman said the issue for both cars was with the same component in the control system of the transmission. Its transmissions are made by supplier Ricardo and have never given the racing GTs trouble before.

By the second hour of the race, the GTs had fallen into 10th and 11th place out of 11 total vehicles competing in the GTLM class. Six hours into the race, the cars remained last in their class as the No. 66 car was 51st out of 54 total vehicles, and the No. 67 car was 47th.

When the GTs were on the track, however, they were running well. As of the sixth hour, German driver Stefan Mucke of the No. 67 GT held the fastest lap time of 1:44.391.

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