The Dark History Of Ford And Ferrari’s Deadly Rivalry At Le Mans
Go Like Hell tells the amazing rivalry story between Ford and Ferrari.
Long before racing was safe, it attracted huge crowds and gigantic car sales.
But in this era of death-defying racing, the chances of a driver dying were around one in four!
It was at Le Mans, an iconic endurance race that ran rain or shine for 24 hours, that the two rivals battled for supremacy.
Overlooking the danger, competitors referred to it as a four-hour sprint followed by a twenty-hour death watch.
In 1955, after a crash involving spectators, hundreds died – yet the race still went on.
Le Mans remained one of the most prestigious motor racing events and in mid-60s reached its peak with yet another intense showdown between Ford and Ferrari.
Go Like Hell takes us through how this rivalry revitalised an entire brand and made Ken Miles famous in history forever – although not always for the right reasons!
In this book you’ll also explore why today’s generation will talk about 1966 Le Mans being controversial till eternity.
If you’re looking to learn more about one of history’s most competitive sports rivalries – Ford vs Ferrari – then look no further than Go Like Hell!
Henry Ford Ii Set Out To Beat Chevrolet And Create A Corvette Killer
When Henry Ford II stepped in as president of the Ford Motor Company in 1945, he faced a formidable challenge: his father, Edsel Ford, had been thwarted by his grandfather from modernizing the brand, allowing the Chevrolet car company to gain considerable traction.
The legendary Henry Ford had also placed a former convict named Harry Bennett as an executive manager and hence, the company was hemorrhaging money.
Moreover, Edsel Ford passed away at the young age of 49 without ever earning his father’s trust.
Henry Ford II refused to let history repeat itself and so he took on the role with one obvious condition – that he be allowed to make whatever changes he liked.
His goal was to rebuild Ford into an automotive giant and regain its supremacy over Chevrolet.
This was no small feat given that post-WWII America saw a huge auto craze heavily influenced by veterans of war who’d learnt to become mechanics or acquired an affinity for fast speeds due to fly fighter planes and by teenagers flocking around drag-strips witnessing local car races and big sponsored events like Indianapolis.
Chevrolet already had their “Corvette killer” rivalling other high-horsepower cars but instead of backing down, Henry Ford II encouraged innovation within the company, motivated them through risk taking and led the team out of a financial free fall during a time when cars were more important than ever in America’s culture.
The Story Of Ferrari: From Racing Obsession To Controversial Fatalities
Enzo Ferrari was destined to make his mark in the world of racing.
As a young boy, he had a deep fascination with motors and engines – an admiration that sparked to life after he attended his first race in 1909.
After serving in World War I, Ferrari took his mechanical knowledge and began to create some of the most cutting edge race cars the world had ever seen out of the small automobile factory he established in Modena, Italy.
By the late 1940s and early 50s, it became clear that Ferrari had officially become one of the biggest names in racing.
His cars were strong and agile enough to ensure that drivers could compete at the highest level of competition, as shown by its multiple Grand Prix titles over the years.
However, tragedy would eventually catch up with Ferrari’s empire; sadly fatal crashes during races such as France’s 24 Hours of Le Mans or Italy’s Mille Miglia became more frequent due to narrow track designs on public roads and cars reaching their endurance limits.
The crash at Mille Miglia 1957 saw 12 dead and many wounded when one of Ferrari’s cars blew a tire while racing on public roads.
And two more deaths occurred soon after in summer 1958 due to driver error on cars envying Ferraris new Dino car at French Grand Prixr amd German Grand Prixr respectively.
In spite of this bloodshed and investigation into possible wrongdoings on behalf of Enzo, it was clear that his machines were indeed well made and that drivers themselves acknowledged they knew away going into such sports risked lives-albeit not wanting them taken away too soon!
Nevertheless Enzo Ferrari showed that dedication towards achieving perfection can lead one atop greatness -even when danger shades its wings overhead..
Ford’s Total Performance: How A Heart Condition And One Man’s Dream Helped Launch An Automotive Dynasty
In 1962, Ford made a formal withdrawal from the federal Safety Resolution, which had limited the company’s involvement in motorsport racing.
This decision was a response to the increasing popularity of car racing across the United States and its potential for driving sales of Ford vehicles.
Ford saw an opportunity and began to align itself with racing via an influential ad campaign aimed at demonstrating the power of their cars with claims like ‘total performance’.
At that year’s Daytona 500, their Galaxie 500 model raced at near 160 mph, becoming one of the fastest cars there and confirming these claims.
The car won first place in that race –– a feat bolstered by ads featuring this win on the following Monday morning.
Not long after their resolution withdrawal, Ford also partnered with former Air Force pilot and racecar driver Carroll Shelby to create his “powered by Ford” Cobra race car.
This vehicle quickly rose to prominence in terms of both accomplishment on track and coverage by automotive magazines, surpassing even Chevrolet’s Corvette Stingray as a leading model in motorsports racing.
Ford’s VP Lee Iacocca soon traveled down to Shelby’s Southern California garage to learn more about how they could benefit from his talents.
Following their successful entry into motorsports following a resolution withdrawal in 1962, it’s safe to say that Ford made a powerful statement within racing circles around America and beyond!
Ford Tries To Take Revenge On Ferrari By Betting At Le Mans After Failed Acquisition Talks
When the Ford-Ferrari deal fell through, Henry Ford II, also known as The Deuce, was determined to take revenge on Il Commendatore.
Instead of taking the traditional route of retaliation, he became committed to achieving the ultimate goal of beating Ferrari in their own backyard – at the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Ferrari had been dominating this race for years; they’d won three out of the last four races and had garnered a lot of attention from the Italian press in return.
In fact, just months before this drama began, Ferrari were involved in a major shakeup involving eight internal members leaving due to internal politics.
The Deuce had set out to prove that his team were superior to their European opponents once and for all.
He mustered together an impressive team of drivers and went about preparing for one of the most ambitious racing projects ever undertaken by an American automotive company – beating Ferrari at Le Mans.
With burning determination in his veins, he was ready to show what America was capable of and prove once again that no one messes with The Deuce.
David Vs. Goliath: The Story Of The Ford-Ferrari Rivalry
Ford’s first attempt to gain success at the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race was the GT40.
Built with a modified 256 cubic-inch V8 Ford Fairlane engine, it had components sourced from abroad, like its transmission from Colotti, Italy and state of the art brakes suited for the Mulsanne Straight.
Even headlights and windshield wipers were included to withstand any rough weather deemed unpredictable by Le Mans.
However, Ford had only five hours to properly test the vehicle, thus resulting to two cars suffering critical transmission failure during operation.
It was clear that the car wasn’t equipped with enough preparation and testing which left the team with a painful learning experience.
With lots of money but no way to work around it due to such inexperience with endurance racing, Ford knew they still weren’t close enough to getting that victory in 1964 Le Mans.
Ford And Shelby’s Team Efforts Provide The Silver Lining To Ferrari’s Dominance In The 1965 Le Mans Race
In 1965, adjustments were made to the GT40 in order to make it more race-ready for the 24 Hours of Daytona endurance race.
With a new aerodynamic shape, sealed off poor air ducting, and bigger front brakes that shed 30 pounds off the car along with an additional 76 horsepower, the cars performance had drastically improved.
Along with this upgrade was a shift from the older engine to a 427 cubic-inch V8 that increased horsepower up to 500.
These changes paid off quickly when Ken Miles and his partner Lloyd Ruby won the Daytona endurance race in February of 1965.
But despite this success, Ferrari still held strong with their 330 P2 and set multiple lap records at Le Mans test week; this could be a problem once things got on the track.
Fortunately, Ford’s trust in these adjustments proved true as they took off on a roaring start when Le Mans began, with Chris Amon and Bruce Mclaren having a 50 second lead over Ferrari.
Things seemed to be going well until smoke started billowing from one of the MK II’s during the third hour.
Despite this setback however, Ford’s new updates paid off as they finished with 2nd and 3rd place at Le Mans that year thanks to their original adjustments for durability and power.
Ford’S Never-Ending Push For Victory At Le Mans: Shelby’S Story Of Perseverance
The 1965 Le Mans ended in misery for Ford.
Despite all of the hardwork, money and resources they had thrown into the project, none of their cars made it to the finish line.
This was a huge disappointment for team Ford, who had put so much effort into creating their own state-of-the-art race cars.
Carroll Shelby was given one more chance – an ultimatum of sorts – win at Le Mans or else.
He knew that if he was going to succeed, he would need to make some upgrades and repairs to the existing tech involved in the racing program.
He began by packing his GT40 MK IIs with a computer-assisted testing bed engine, as well as 110 more horsepower than what they’d used previously.
Additionally, they installed a more lightweight Ferrari 330 P3 model car with fuel injection and a V12 engine that was smaller and lighter than last year’s 486 cubic engines.
Hours were spent hours running rigorous tests on this new engine in order to simulate what would happen during an actual race at Le Mans that year but unfortunately nothing could prepare them for what would come next.
Miles won at Daytona and Sebring races prior to Le Mans, putting him in prime position leading up to race day – yet still not enough to secure Ford a win when push came to shove (or pedal).
In the end all of Shelby’s hard work couldn’t keep defeat from lurking around the corner.
The 24 Hours Of Le Mans Controversy: How A Seemingly Sweet Gesture Cost Ken Miles The Race
The 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966 ended with much controversy.
Ford’s team of drivers, Ken Miles and Dennis Hulme, as well as Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon had dominated the race up to the finish.
When it came time for the final laps, Ford executives made a last-minute request for all three cars to cross the line simultaneously for a photo opportunity.
Miles was reluctant but agreed nonetheless.
But when the three cars did indeed finish together, Le Mans officials declared that ties were not allowed and awarded first place to McLaren/Amon since their car started behind Miles.
This infuriated Racers like Ken Miles.
Little did they know that tragedy would soon strike in this rivalry between Ford and Ferrari: just weeks later, tragically, Ken Miles lost his life while testing a new model at the Riverside Raceway in California.
His untimely death ended any hopes of settling their rivalry on the track rather than simply deciding who won or lost in courtrooms or corporate boardrooms afterward.
Ford’s Mission To Topple Ferrari After Ken Miles’ Tragic Death Is Complete
At the end of 1967, tragedy struck the Ford racing team.
Ken Miles, one of Ford’s greatest drivers, suffered a fatal accident when his car malfunctioned and burst into flames during a desert test run in Riverside, California.
This news devastated his teammates and threw the team into mourning.
But even despite this tragedy, Ferrari was able to rebound at Daytona which not only gave them a small sense of defiance but also showed their strength as competitors.
However, Ferrari’s victory at Daytona did not last long as they never won another Le Mans race following that victory in 1967.
Meanwhile Ford was granted a sense of consolation with their repeat win at Le Mans in 1967 and they quickly followed up that success by launching “Ford of Europe Inc”, an ambitious mission to compete against Japan’s emergent auto industry at the tail end of the sixties.
Although Ferrari had initially taken back some momentum after Ken Mile’s death, it wasn’t enough to overpower Ford’s hold on capturing yet another historic Le Mans title.
In Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans, author AJ Baime tells the dramatic story of the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans race between Ford Motor Company and the iconic Italian carmaker Ferrari.
The epic battle began when Ford’s pursuit of a business deal with Ferrari went south and turned into an obsession for Henry Ford II to beat Ferrari in a race.
Ultimately, with much focus on bold innovation, hard work, and calculated risk taking from both teams it came down to a nail biting finish.
After three attempts, which took millions of dollars invested in development costs and considerable risk-taking by all parties involved, Ford managed to pull off an outstanding victory over their rival; becoming the first ever American car manufacturer to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans race.