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The Ford GT won its first race this weekend in California, giving the Blue Oval momentum a month before its highly anticipated return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France.

Drivers Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook piloted the No. 67 car to victory in the Monterey Grand Prix at Laguna Seca Raceway during a two-hour, 40-minute race that showcased fuel economy. The GT, powered by a 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine, only had to pit once; its competitors had to refill two or three times.

“We’ve been waiting for this win for a long time,” Dave Pericak, global director, Ford Performance, said in a statement. “I think it’s great that it came as a fuel economy win. It’s great for Ford EcoBoost, because that’s what it’s all about, but this is really a boost for the team going into Le Mans. We’ve been working up to this point to showcase the car’s durability and I think this is what the team needed to go to Le Mans.”

The Laguna Seca race is the fourth of 11 contests in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The GTs are also competing overseas in the nine-race FIA World Endurance Championship.

The next race in either series is the Six Hours of Spa in Belgium later this month. After that, it’s Le Mans, where the GT swept the podium 50 years ago against heavy favorites like Porsche and Ferrari. Between the two series, Ford’s GTs will race an estimated 29,071 miles this year.

The Laguna Seca win is the first for the newest iteration of Ford’s race car, which first turned a wheel less than a year ago.

“It’s something we didn’t expect, although the crew thoroughly deserved it after three months of slugging away, getting us to where we are now,” Westbrook said in a statement. “That’s for them. It really is.”

The other GT competing in the race, the No. 66 car, placed sixth.

Ford started taking applications for the street version of its GT supercar last month. The applications are open in the U.S. and most regions through May 12, although Ford will accept applications in China, Macau and the Philippines through May 24.

mmartinez@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2401

Twitter.com/MikeMartinez_DN

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