Ford and Fer­rari fight over pace

Motor Sport News - - Headline News - By Scott Mitchell Photos: LAT

A Bal­ance of Per­for­mance row over­shad­owed the GTE bat­tle at the Le Mans 24 Hours, which was dom­i­nated by Ford and Fer­rari.

The new-for-2016 tur­bocharged Ford GTS and Fer­rari 488 GTES blocked out the first seven po­si­tions in the 14-strong class in qual­i­fy­ing, with next-best man­u­fac­turer Porsche 3.8 sec­onds off the pace in eighth.

Dirk Muller’s pole lap of 3m51.185s was 4.9 sec­onds faster than Ford man­aged on the test day, lead­ing to al­le­ga­tions of sand­bag­ging – some­thing the Amer­i­can man­u­fac­turer ve­he­mently de­nied.

Muller’s time was 3.8s quicker than last year’s pole time, with the gen­eral 2016 up­grades for GTE Pro cars thought to ac­count for half of that time.

Porsche made a mar­ginal im­prove­ment from last year’s qual­i­fy­ing times but the As­tons and Corvettes were slower, and Ford driver Richard West­brook said the onus should be on the lack of per­for­mance from those three man­u­fac­tur­ers, all of which are run­ning up­graded ma­chin­ery.

“The big mys­tery to me was where was ev­ery­one else?” he said after the open­ing qual­i­fy­ing ses­sion. “It’s shock­ing they haven’t pro­gressed. It’s been strange.

“I wasn’t sur­prised by the time at all – we’ve got a huge dif­fuser and more power so these times were pre­dicted.”

Ad­verse weather con­di­tions meant the three slower man­u­fac­tur­ers did not get chance to im­prove their times in the sec­ond and third qual­i­fy­ing ses­sions, but the World En­durance Cham­pi­onship rule­mak­ers still acted.

The per­for­mance of the Fords and the Fer­raris, the best of which qual­i­fied third, led to the ACO and FIA mak­ing a BOP change on Fri­day, the day after the event’s fi­nal qual­i­fy­ing ses­sion.

Chip Ganassi Rac­ing’s four Fords had their min­i­mum weight raised by 10kg, while en­gine power was also cut with a re­vised ta­ble of turbo boost ra­tios.

The three Fer­raris, two run by the fac­tory AF Corse team and one by Risi Com­pe­tizione, had 15kg added to their min­i­mum weight while the As­ton Martins and Chevro­let Corvettes left trail­ing in the wake of the class pace­set­ters were given per­for­mance breaks.

The As­ton Martin Van­tage GTE and Chevro­let Corvette C7.R were al­lowed an en­gine air-re­stric­tor 0.2mm larger in di­am­e­ter.

But the changes made no dif­fer­ence to the story of the race, in which the Fords and Fer­raris re­mained in a class of their own.

Aside from an early rally from Porsche in the wet con­di­tions the race was dom­i­nated by the two man­u­fac­tur­ers, with Ford’s #68 GT best­ing the Risi Com­pe­tizione-run 488 GTE.

Fords also fin­ished third and fourth, with the best of the rest the twice-lapped As­ton Martin Rac­ing Van­tage of Dar­ren Turner, Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen in fifth.

De­spite the BOP changes, the quick­est Ford came close to match­ing the pole time, with Indy­car leg­end Scott Dixon set­ting the race’s fastest lap on a 3m51.514s.

Three of the Fords were in the 3m51s in the race, while the Risi Fer­rari and quicker of the two works 488s – both of which re­tired – were in the 3m52s.

The quick­est rep­re­sen­ta­tives from As­ton, Porsche and Chevro­let re­mained at least two sec­onds off the pace.

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