The Ford GT era of the 2010s will end with the decade as the Ford GT Le Mans program will not race in IMSA in the hands of privateers, as reported by Racer.com. This also means the end of Chip Ganassi Racing’s participation in the IMSA WeatherTech Series for the time being. The program’s closure will leave the GTLM class with only 6 full-time participants in IMSA going into the 2020 season.
Fellow Ford pilot Ben Keating, who took a GTE AM class win at Le Mans only to later be disqualified due to his fuel tank being too big, is also opting out of racing his Ford in favor of a Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR in 2020.
“If I decide to race the Ford again at some point, that will require a whole lot more stuff,” said Keating.
The Ford GT’s return to competition from 2016 to 2019 coincided with the 50th anniversary of their four consecutive wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans from 1966-69 and generated a lot of fanfare. However, in May of 2019 Ford confirmed they would be closing the program after the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans in the WEC and after the 2019 Petit Le Mans in IMSA.
The Ford GT program found it’s share of victories, including their class return to Le Mans in 2016 despite claims on sandbagging from other teams. They also won in their class at Watkins Glen in 2017 and at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2018. Despite not winning any titles in WEC or IMSA, they scored 16 class wins in 56 races, meeting and exceeding the goals set by Ford.
Despite the car no longer competing in an official capacity, there’s reason to believe that it made an impact in sports car racing beyond the track. Following the conclusion of the 2019 IMSA season, the sanctioning body reported that viewership for the sport increased by 15 percent. Although this was in the latter half of the GT’s participation in the sport, there’s no denying that part of the sport’s heritage was part of the larger draw in 2019.