The Matt Damon, Christian Bale 2019 hit, Ford v Ferrari (also titled Le Mans ’66 in some countries), made one thing very clear and memorable. The year 1966 marked an important change in racing history when a hitherto mass-passenger-carmaker managed to produce a racecar that beat the competition and emerged the winner.
The car was the GT40, the main people behind its success were Henry Ford II, Lee Iacocca, Leo Beebe, the indubitable Carroll Shelby, and of course, the lanky Brit racer, Ken Miles. Not only did the Ford GT40 win the Le Mans in 1966, but also did a 1-2-3 photo finish, the three cars that came in at number one, two and three, were all Ford GT40s.
24 Hours of Daytona, so this was the ultimate triumph for Ford, and the ultimate salt rub into Ferrari’s wounds.
So sure, the movie did dramatize some stuff, delete some other boring details and overall turn the Ford GT40 and its makers into heroes. A lot of it was true, some of it was fudged. So here’s what the world forgot about the 1966 Le Mans, and all that went down it…
The First Win For US Amidst Ferrari Drama
The 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans came to be the 34th Grand Prix of Endurance and was the seventh round of the 1966 World Sportscar Championship season. This was the first win for an American constructor overall, and the first win for the Ford GT40 as well.
The rules changed for this season with certain kinds of cars being deemed ineligible, so to let a certain amount of competition in, more cars were added into the rules.
The one thing that worked in Ford’s favor was that they copied Ferrari’s strategy of introducing copious amounts of cars in the same race, and this swayed the statistics on the whole. Ferrari on the other hand, had less time of preparation for 1966, because of a worker strike in Italy – although they too had the new Ferrari 330 P3, as well as NART P2 in the contending. That said; Ferrari did not even show up for the test weekend in April.
Another drama that unfolded in the Ferrari camp was the storming out of lead driver John Surtees, Ferrari’s 1964 F1 champion. While he was recovering from a bad 1965 crash, it was decided that he would break the Fords, and in case he needed backup, he would let Ludivico Scarfiotti takes the lead. But FIAT’s new chairman, Gianni Agnelli, who was Scarfiotti’s uncle, put Scarfiotti in the lead. Surtees tried to sway Enzo Ferrari but when he was overruled, he quit the Ferrari team.
Ford Was No Fairer To Ken Miles
Ford’s Leo Beebe was no fan of Ken Miles and Miles was not known for his political correctness. Miles had already won the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Daytona for Shelby American – and he was now aiming for the 24 Hours Of Le Mans as well, something no driver had ever been able to achieve.