In 2006 it will be the 40th anniversary of one of Ford Motor Company’s proudest moments – the first of four consecutive Le Mans 24 Hour Race wins by the legendary GT40. The GT40 was reincarnated as one of the world’s fastest road cars last year and later this year there’ll be a special edition to commemorate the win. Meet the 2006 Ford 'Tungsten' GT In the history of Ford Motor Company, there have been many proud moments, the two most important being Henry Ford’s “world championship” win in 1901 in the Sweepstakes and the 1966 Le Mans 24 Hour Race. Company founder Henry Ford’s victory on October 10, 1901 in the "world championship" at Grosse Pointe Race Track was won at an average speed of 44.8 mph. The Sweepstakes was an ash-framed wheeled sled with a massive 8.8-liter, two-cylinder engine - was not particularly pretty or fast by today's standards. It also handled poorly: The steering had to be manually "unwound" after each turn, as the geometry necessary for self-centering hadn't been conceived at the dawn of the automotive era. So while Ford constructed a replica of the original sweepstakes machine for its centenary of motorsoports, it was hardly worth selling them to the public.
But the GT40 was a different matter. The original Ford GT racers were engineering and design marvels demonstrating Ford's dedication and perseverance. In a few short years under the direction of Henry Ford II, the company built a program from scratch that reached the pinnacle of international motorsports competition - and stayed there for four racing seasons.
So the beginning of production of the GT replica was also a proud moment and it’s fitting that the 2006 Ford GT will be offered in a limited edition Tungsten silver, as part of Ford's celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Ford GT's legendary 1, 2, 3-sweep at Le Mans in 1966.
Just as the Ford GT40 was the first race car to break the 200mph barrier at LeMans, the Ford GT is the first production road car wearing the Ford badge to achieve a top speed in excess of 200mph. During engineering testing for high-speed stability and powertrain durability at Italy's famed Nardo test facility, the Ford GT reached a certified top speed of 205mph.
The Ford GT engineering team took two cars to the Nardo test facility to conduct high-speed stability evaluations and run a 500-mile powertrain durability test.
Aerodynamics and high-speed stability has been a major focus of the engineering program from the very beginning, when the team first tested an original GT40 in the wind tunnel. The GT40 race car exhibited major lift at high speeds, and the team determined that the Ford GT road car would also have the same issue if care was not taken to attend to the problem.
In order to not disturb the well-executed exterior design, the engineering team limited aerodynamic changes primarily to the underside of the vehicle. As a result, a subtle rear spoiler extension, front and side splitters and venturi tunnels wrapped under the rear clip are the only visible changes.
"Driving the Ford GT at speeds above 200mph was remarkably uneventful, which is a very positive outcome," said Mark McGowan, Ford GT vehicle dynamics supervisor and driver during the Nardo testing. "I was able to drive the around the 13km track with my foot to the floor with complete confidence in the stability and control of the car at 200mph plus. My only limitation was the amount of fuel in the tank!"
The 550 hp 5.4-liter DOHC supercharged V-8 engine was also put to the test during the Nardo trip. The engineering team required a 500-mile test at or near maximum velocity speeds to prove-out the strength and durability of the powertrain. Not only did the engine exhibit strong acceleration all the way to the 205mph top speed, but it passed the durability test without any significant problems.
"The Ford GT is performing at levels of super exotic sports cars that cost 3 and 4 times as much money, and it still meets all the engineering and quality requirements of any Ford vehicle program," stated Coletti. "That is no small feat, but a showcase of the passion and talent that resides within the Company."