The Amazing Race

The Amazing Race

In 1966, history was made at the 24 Hours of Le Mans motorsport event. As a movie on the event PREPARES to hit the silver screen, Keith Pereña explains why we should all be pumped for this underdog story



By Keith Pereña

Published: Fri 11 Oct 2019, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 11 Oct 2019, 2:00 AM

"Every car enthusiast should know what happened at Le Mans in 1966," a comment on Reddit read. I'll have to concur with the random chap on the Internet since the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans makes for a tearjerker. It is the story of how talented individuals tried to prove themselves on the world stage.

The Ford and Ferrari slugfest in Le Mans is often condensed to the essentials: Ford offers to buy the Maranello-based brand; the deal falls through; Ford goes on the warpath to beat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world's oldest active sports car race in endurance racing; they fail for two years before finally winning in 1966 - the first time an American car manufacturer won the race.

This turn of events is what the film Ford V Ferrari will portray. Starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale, the film is based on how car designer Carroll Shelby (Damon) and driver Ken Miles (Bale) worked with the Ford Motor Company to beat Le Mans by building one of the world's most iconic cars - the Ford GT.

Without spoiling anything, the trailers for the James Mangold-directed film seem to stick to facts. Let's take a step back to 1960 when Henry Ford II decided he wanted to improve his brand's image and sell more cars in the process. His solution? Take his brand to the races. In 1963, Henry Ford II caught wind that Ferrari was in financial turmoil. At the time, the Italian manufacturer dominated the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The two companies got to talking and the deal was to be finalised in Maranello, Italy (Ferrari's base) when Enzo Ferrari, founder of the brand, saw a clause that he had not seen before. The clause pertained to the ownership of both the Ferrari road car division and the race team. In an episode of the Grand Tour, James May showed a scene where Enzo saw the clause, took out a fountain pen and wrote a big 'no' on the contract, then blasted Ford in Italian and then calmly asked the local town mayor (his companion at the signing) out to lunch.

Returning to the US empty handed, Henry Ford II ordered a car be built that could crush Ferrari. Their first effort, the Ford GT40 Mk. I, was co-developed with UK racing boutique Lola. During their first outing in 1964, all cars broke down and Ferrari once again took the podium. The next year was the same story, despite Henry Ford II enlisting the help of Carroll Shelby.

In 1966, Ford returned to Le Mans with the GT40 Mk. II. Unlike the earlier version, the Mk II had more time to be developed and Ford's research team used computers to simulate the car in the French course's conditions. The use of computers is standard practice in today but, in 1966, it was revolutionary. Shelby and Miles put time and effort into perfecting the cars which finally defeated Ferrari in a spectacular one, two and three finish.
The drama of seeing a motorsport neophyte stand up to the grandmaster in the most hallowed ground of racing is something to behold. Books and short films are out there, but Ford V Ferrari is the sole feature film made on the feat. The film releases in UAE cinemas on November 28, 2019.
keith@khaleejtimes.com
 


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