Le Mans, 1966

June 18th, 1966—A steely grey sky hung over a crowds and cars collected in a ancient French city of Le Mans, though even a guarantee of sleet couldn’t take divided from a expectation that seemed to grow by a notation for a world’s many mythological automobile foe to begin.

As a 4 pm dwindle dump approached, many spectators craned to locate a glance of a year’s Grand Marshall, Henry Ford II, and his GT40 racers. In 1966, expectations were high—Ford had already claimed feat during Daytona and Sebring that year, and Le Mans could be a valuables in crown.

A map of a universe eminent Le Mans racetrack

A map of a universe eminent Le Mans racetrack

Something to prove

But a challenging shade of Ferrari also loomed vast over a day. The Italian automobile manufacturer had mostly dominated Le Mans in a 60s, and Henry had set out to infer that his record and vehicles were superior.

Le Mans was a ideal environment for Ford to stir a coals of foe with Ferrari. Since 1923, a foe has turn an institution, temperament declare to overwhelming victories and abrasive defeats. Its myth-making standing has desirous films, including a eponymously patrician 1971 classical starring Steve McQueen and a iconic Ford GT40.

An iconic race, a tiresome challenge

The idea of Le Mans is elementary enough: cars contingency cycle by a 13.6 km-long Circuit de la Sarthe over a 24-hour period. As drivers navigate pointy turns, circuitous curves, and a all-out rush of a Mulsanne Straight, speed is important, though so is continuance and technology—winning cars contingency rest on fuel efficiency. There’s a reason a foe is also famous as a Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency, after all.

Le Mans 1966 compulsory Henry Ford II’s group to pull a bounds of creation to continue 24 hours of speed and exist opposition Enzo Ferrari’s cars. The GT40s were built to last, interjection in no tiny partial to a work of mythological motorist and automechanic Carroll Shelby. As a sleet began to tumble and a illumination faded into night, a GT40s kept on going.

Images of a ancestral Ford feat during Le Mans in 1966

Ford creates story during Le Mans in 1966

History is made

There are few moments in automobile racing as defining as when Ford placed first, second and third during Le Mans that year, withdrawal Ferrari in a dirt of ninth place. “The superb steer of a overwhelming phalanx of MK 2s channel a line in arrangement done it extravagantly transparent to a universe who had won Le Mans,” reported Autoweek of a strange victory.

It was a commencement of a bequest that would see Ford win Le Mans for 4 uninterrupted years. Five decades later, Ford’s fulfilment is still widely concurred as a defining impulse in automotive history, and a impulse behind a lapse to a iconic foe in 2016 with a insubordinate EcoBoost engine.