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Building the Ford GT


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Bill McLauchlan, Automotive News  /  June 18, 2016

Cloaked in secrecy from the outset and with still little known about its technical intricacies, the new Ford GT supercar has another well-kept secret. It's being built in Canada.

You might not know Multimatic Inc. of Markham, Ontario, which is remaining decidedly low key and tight-lipped about the GT, but Multimatic knows performance, engineering and carbon fiber.

Larry Holt, the main man behind Multimatic Motorsports, the company's competition arm, has for years managed to fly below the media's radar. This, despite employing a past class winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans as his lead development driver, shaping suspension components and other parts for Formula One teams and fielding a succession of race-developed Ford cars in high-profile racing series around the globe.

One year after the GT concept exploded onto the stage at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Mich., Ford in January showed a fully functioning, road-ready model -- upstairs and in the back -- just far enough away from the spotlight that visitors had to look around to find it.

Holt was nowhere to be seen as he was in Daytona, Florida, with his team and a brand new Ford GT, preparing for the 24 Hours of Daytona (Fla.) endurance race.

And that's just how Ford wanted it, apparently. Weeks of trying to line up Holt for an interview on the car's development led absolutely nowhere. Ford doesn't want the finer details of its new halo sports car getting out until much closer to the release date later this year, explained Ford of Canada president and CEO Dianne Craig.

"We're now concentrating on (developing) the racing aspect of the GT," she said in an interview at the Detroit auto show in January.

So who is this mysterious Holt, and what is Multimatic?

The company designs, develops and produces everything from simple door hinges and latches to complex stamped and welded assemblies, suspension components and specialized dampers, and even complete vehicles.

The GT, with its carbon tub and body, is one reason Multimatic is involved. Aston Martin's Vantage GT12 coupe, Vulcan supercar and Lagonda Taraf super sedan all showcase the company's composites capability.

Interestingly, while carbon fiber can't compete with high-strength steels and aluminum on a cost basis for cars that are affordable to mere mortals, "it's getting close," claims Holt.

While it sounds like a dream job, the beginnings were humble. Holt began his career at farm equipment manufacturer Massey-Ferguson in the 1980s, later joining Canada's largest auto parts supplier, Magna, where he quickly rose to become director of computer aided engineering. In 1988, he began building the independent Engineering Group of Multimatic Inc.

Holt saw opportunities to offer comprehensive engineering services to third-party customers. An early example of this had Multimatic team up with Ford of Canada to produce a race-winning Taurus that took National Showroom Stock Championship titles in 1992 and '93. That not only began a long-standing association with Ford, but it also began an impressive winning streak in international competition.

Holt has since taken the organization from a five-man team to more than 400 global employees engaged in all aspects of product development, from commonplace production bits and pieces to full cars, such as the Aston Martin One-77 and a series of race-ready Mustang customer cars for Ford.

But Holt's dream role as team principal of Multimatic Motorsports is where his vision for the future plays out today. He sees it as a high-speed laboratory where innovative engineering (a competitive advantage for Multimatic on and off the track), creative thinking and rapid problem solving are imperative for success.

Not least, it's an excellent showcase to promote proprietary in-house technologies, such as its Dynamic Suspension Spool Valve damping that's favored at the highest levels of motorsports, including Red Bulls's multiple F1 World Championship run, Indy Car, F3, sports cars and touring cars. Racing also allows Multimatic to demonstrate its obvious ability in the design, development, build, engineering and running of racecars.

Keep that in mind as you wonder if the new Ford GT will be as good as it looks. With Multimatic's track record, there will be little doubt.


"You race to win"

"This car, in the scheme of our earnings, will not make much difference. But in the reputation of Ford Motor Company, which is something I care deeply about, this car will be huge"

Bill Ford

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U-S-A! U-S-A! Ford Steamrolls GTE Class at 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans!

Car & Driver  /  June 19, 2016

What a difference a day—and 2890 miles—makes. After the first hour at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours it looked as if Ford’s expensively bought return to the world’s most famous endurance race, timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the brand’s first overall victory, was set to unravel in dramatic fashion in front of a record-breaking 265,000 fans.

Before the race even began, the No. 67 GT had been pushed off the grid and back to its garage with a gearbox fault. It was eventually fixed, but with a delay that took it out of contention for class honors. Torrential rain meant the race began behind a trio of safety cars, and when these were eventually called in 52 minutes later the remaining three Fords looked to be off the pace.

It took just four minutes for the No. 66 GT that was running second in class to be passed by the No. 51 Ferrari 458. The leading GT, No. 68, soon proved equally powerless to keep the Ferrari at bay, and before long both they and the Ferraris were overwhelmed by the flying Porsche Motorsport 911 RSRs, which proved to be particularly happy in the damp conditions.

The grins that had been worn by the senior executives in Ford’s corporate hospitality unit faded. Although this is Ford’s first year in the World Endurance Championship we were in no doubt that Le Mans was the primary target. “It’s optimized not just for the class, but for here, it was designed for this track,” Raj Nair, Ford’s CTO told us before the race began, also admitting that it would have made more sense for the GT to make its debut a year earlier to gain experience for the bid to win on the 50th anniversary of the GT40’s first victory. “To be honest we had some false starts. We had a window there that could have allowed us to run in ’15, put the car out and then really make the run in 2016 for the 50th anniversary. But we didn’t get the program approved in time.”

Yet against early expectations, the GTs came back to stage a return that took Ford to a victory that was both emotional and deserved, with the 2016 race becoming one of the closest and most exciting in the 84-year history of the event. While Toyota’s remarkable failure to win with three minutes left handed Porsche overall victory—the brand’s 18th at La Sarthe—until the very end of the race almost as much attention was being paid to the battle further down the order between Ford and Ferrari in GTE Pro.

As Porsche’s early challenge faded, and it became clear that Aston Martin and Chevrolet’s GTE Pro cars were well off the pace (see our previous post on the controversy surrounding various “Balance of Performance” adjustments), so the race did indeed become another Ford-Ferrari duel in the mold of the classics of the 1960s, albeit one where Ford developed a strong numerical advantage. The No. 71 and No. 51 AF Corsa works Ferrari 488s dropped out after 143 and 179 laps respectively, the latter with a spectacular engine failure. By evening, Italy’s honor was being upheld by just the privateer No. 82 Risi Competizione 488, which surrendered its class lead at 7:30 pm to the No. 68 GT.

Yet the pack of Fords didn’t have the remaining 20 hours of the race to themselves, with the No. 82 Ferrari fighting a remarkable rearguard action that saw the lead change several times as the two cars changed position. By 8:30 in the morning the Ferrari led the No. 68 car by just 13 seconds, with the gap increased to more than a minute as the GT was called in for a pitlane penalty for a refueling infringement.

But it didn’t last. Ford increased the pace and took the class lead with under three hours to go, the No. 68 car’s margin increasing as the Ferrari suffered an unforced spin. For the final stint former F1 driver Giancarlo Fisichella took over in the 488 and managed to fend off the chasing No. 69 GT, denying Ford a 1-2 finish but allowing it to finish the race with first, third, and fourth in the GTE Pro class, with German Dirk Muller getting the honor of driving the victory. Even the No. 67 car was patched up to make it to the end of the race, albeit 78 laps behind the leaders.

So was it worth it? The 2016 Le Mans is destined to be remembered as the race that Toyota lost in spectacular fashion, but it’s also one that effectively justified Ford’s decision to sign off the significant development budget for both the GTE racer and its roadgoing sister. We’re looking forward to seeing how that version builds on this momentum.

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On 6/20/2016 at 3:27 PM, TeamsterGrrrl said:

Amen- had the same fears early in season-figured no way would they pull it all together in time.  Great effort on part of Ford, Chip Gnassi Racing and Multimatic.  Time to bring back the old.."Have You driven a Ford Lately" and "Winning the World Over" spots!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Second double-podium in a row for Ford GT as Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Finishes p1-2 at Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen

  • Ford Chip Ganassi Racing went p1-2 at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen after finishing the Le Mans 24 p1, p3

  • Richard Westbrook drove the eventual winner to a track-record crushing pole, the first IMSA pole for Ford GT, on Saturday

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y., July 3, 2016 – The Ford GT is on a winning streak. Ford Chip Ganassi Racing earned its second double-podium in a row as the No. 67 Ford GT duo of Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe cruised to victory lane for the second time together, this time at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, while teammates Joey Hand and Dirk Müller backed up their win at the Le Mans 24 Hours with a runner-up finish.

Westbrook, who handled all driving duties Friday and Saturday while Briscoe went home for the surprise birth of daughter Blake James, put the No. 67 on pole with a track-record crushing 1:41.301, then, incredibly, set that bar even higher on race day.

“It’s just such a good period for us at the moment,” Westbrook said. “Confidence is so high. It’s just a pleasure going to work every day in this Ford camp. It’s just been an amazing 30 days especially, really. First the Le Mans 24 Hours and now this. It was a great race out there. We had a really great battle with the BMW for most of the race. At one point, I thought we didn’t have enough for them, but at the end, we just seemed that little bit stronger. It was a really good race. A good race to be part of. I’m really happy for my teammate that he actually made it to the track and he has a nice trophy to bring home to his girls.”

Westbrook and Briscoe earned Ford GT’s first win at Laguna Seca. Then they stood on the podium at p3 while teammates Hand, Müller and Sébastien Bourdais won on the 50th anniversary of Ford’s fabled 1-2-3 finish at the Le Mans 24 Hours in June. Now they’re back on the podium after Westbrook earned the team’s first IMSA pole in GTLM.

“It’s really good to be back here at Watkins Glen,” Briscoe said. “Obviously it was a really busy weekend of driving on the freeways back and forth to Connecticut from Watkins Glen, but it’s been exciting and it’s been fun. It was really strange not being here at the track. I was on the phone a lot with Richard and our engineer and Richard was on fire. He led two practice sessions and got the pole. So I’m coming in last night, and I was kind of nervous. I thought ‘I don’t want to step in here and let the team down.’ I’m glad we got the win and it’s all worked out well. I’ll be hitting the road as soon as I leave the track to go back to the hospital and see my girls. Thanks to the team and for Richard for sticking it out for me while I was gone. It’s been awesome being in the car today. It handled really well. It’s nice to lead some laps and get the win.”

The move of the race for the No. 66 happened in the closing moments, when Hand passed the BMW the team had been dueling with around the outside for p2.

“Clearly we have a little roll going here,” Hand said. “(Briscoe and Westbrook) won at Laguna Seca, we both had fast cars there, then we went to the Le Mans 24 Hours and had a great run there and ended up first and third between these two cars. This Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team, we’re hitting our stride. We got along really well from the beginning, but I think with the whole team, everyone is just flowing really good and we’re getting great support from our partners like Michelin and Castrol and IHG Rewards Club. There’s just a lot of good mojo. This is when it’s great to drive for a race team like this. They figure things out. We struggled on the No. 66 car. We thought we broke something. We struggled during qualifying. Even during the race, something didn’t feel right. There was so much rubber on the race track. It took a bunch of rubber to make the car feel normal, but after that…we had one bad pit stop that put us back to eighth and it was a dog fight to get back from that. The car was good. I was able to get through. We had some great racing. This IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship right now, in GTLM, is pretty awesome. We have some great cars. It’s cool for the fans.”

Like Hand, Müller credited the team for fixing an issue they dealt with early on in time for the race.

“I love every single second in the car,” Müller said. “The car was awesome. We had a little issue with the car yesterday and we found it, so thanks to the team. Ford Chip Ganassi did a great job with the car. It was really, really fast.”

Photo Gallery - https://media.ford.com/content/fordmedia/fna/us/en/news/2016/07/05/second-double-podium-in-a-row-for-ford-gt-as-ford-chip-ganassi-r.html

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  • 9 months later...

Why Ford returned to Le Mans with GT and not Mustang

Automotive News  /  April 5, 2017

Ford Motor Co. originally proposed making its racing return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a Mustang, not a GT.

Prior to the company's decision to secretly build the Ford GT supercar to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Blue Oval’s victory in the famed French race over Ferrari, Raj Nair, head of global product development at Ford, said company officials first conducted studies to develop a Mustang to compete in the race.

Nair, who also is Ford's chief technology officer, said the Mustang racer -- code-named “Project Silver,” after the Lone Ranger’s horse -- was rejected by company executives because of the price tag -- $250,000 or more in modifications for each racer, as well as aerodynamics and concerns Le Mans did not align with Mustang’s values and heritage, among other things.

“It was all good learning, but it turns out not to be the right fit. Ultimately, Mustang does not need Le Mans to be a global car,” Nair told hundreds of engineers and others in attendance at the SAE International's WCX conference on Wednesday in Detroit. “To be candid, I still wanted to do it. I was actually a little bit mad … in fact, I was really mad.”

Nair said he felt the company was “underestimating the importance of the 50th anniversary” of when Henry Ford II and Carroll Shelby created a team that beat vaunted rival Ferrari and finished 1-2-3.

After the Mustang proposal was rejected, Nair eventually began leading a group of fewer than 12 people in late 2013 to research and design an all-new Ford GT without the blessing of top executives in the Glass House, including current CEO Mark Fields, Executive Chairman Bill Ford and then-CEO Alan Mulally.

“I was just determined that we were going to have to do it but we were going to have to do it differently,” Nair said, adding he believed the team could potentially do a “low-investment, full vehicle program” with lessons learned from the failed Mustang project, including new advancements in tooling that “could really keep investment costs low and the quality ... exceptional.”

The small group, as previously reported, assigned the code name “Project Phoenix” to the GT program because the vehicle was “rising from the ashes.”

However, prior to adopting the "Project Phoenix" name, Nair on Wednesday disclosed that one employee suggested the code name “Groundhog” -- after the 1993 film Groundhog Day because he and others had tried several times to resurrect the GT without any success.

Nair said the GT, which was developed simultaneously as a racer and street-legal vehicle, was most importantly “singularly focused on becoming an endurance racer.”

“Our plan was clear: This was going to be a test bed for our technologies for engine development that had to push the boundaries of material usage such as the lightweight carbon fiber that eventually ended up in the car, and had to stretch our understanding of what was possible with aerodynamics,” he said.

Nair eventually took each of the executives who had rejected the Mustang project down to the secret room, in the corner of Ford's Dearborn product development center, where the car was being developed and convinced them that the company could not only build a new GT but create a racer that would win Le Mans.

Ford unveiled the GT during the 2015 Detroit auto show, followed by its return to racing for the Rolex 24 at the Daytona International Speedway a year later.

The GT, following some early trials and tribulations during its return to racing, finished first, third and fourth at its first return to Le Mans in June 2016 -- beating Ferrari.

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  • 1 year later...

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