Frank Comstock, a friend of the late Leo Beebe.
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” Henry Ford
“Great leaders inspire a sense of mission. Good people with a proper sense of mission will find a way to get the job done.” Leo Beebe
Fifty years have elapsed since Ford Motor Company’s overwhelming victory at Le Mans in 1966 and the controversy over who did win, or who should have won, the race. Ford and its Director of Special Vehicles, Leo Beebe, were both praised and vilified in the motor sports world and press at the time and, in some ways, nothing has changed. The Internet teems with comments about the way the race ended, while online and print publications have returned to the fray in recent years, undoubtedly looking forward to this 50th anniversary.
to have a particular driver or pair of drivers win. He was told in simple terms by his old friend Henry Ford II to put a Ford car in the winners’ circle at Le Mans. He also had to do the same at Daytona and Indianapolis, but there is no doubt that Le Mans was the main attraction. Henry Ford wanted to beat Ferrari and Le Mans was the place to do just that.
As one of Ford’s most trusted trouble shooters, Leo was known as a man who could bring order out of chaos. He knew that with each new challenge, he needed to assemble a team of experts and guide them to success. He knew he had to give credit to the team when success was assured and he understood he needed to take responsibility when failure or controversy happened.
In the final hours of the 1966 Le Mans race, with only three of Ford’s eight team cars (and none of the five independent Fords) left in the fray, the squad began talking about how the race should end. The Miles/Hulme car was leading as the hours wound down, with the McLaren/Amon car initially a lap back, although they made up that lap when the Miles/Hulme car took a late pit stop. The Bucknum/Hutcherson car was several laps back, running in third place. Ford officials had their eyes on a win for the team, not on a win for any particular pair of drivers. A win for Ford as a team was the primary mission.
Opinions went back and forth during team discussions, but the decision ultimately rested with the leader of the team and Leo understood it was his responsibility. In an unpublished interview with noted automotive historian and author Dr. David Lewis, Leo said,“Ken Miles, who later died, regrettably didn’t win the race that year. I had some real difficulties over that. But, he was a daredevil and I pulled him in and literally engineered the end of that race—-one, two, three… I called Ken Miles in and held him back because I was afraid the drivers would knock one another off. All you need is one good accident and you lose all your investment.”