In 1966, Ford took on the dominant Ferrari to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It was such a dramatic race, and such a dramatic story, that there was immediately talk of it being turned into a movie. Its taken 53 years, but that story is finally reaching cinemas later this year in Ford v Ferrari.
In the early 1960s, Ford launched a bid to buy out Ferrari in an effort to bolster its image and boost its success in motorsport. The top brass at the US giant, led by Henry Ford II, thought it was a done deal. But, right at the last minute, Enzo Ferrari pulled the plug.
Henry was furious and vowed to smash Ferrari on track in the race that mattered most – the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
British firm Lola was working on a mid-engined racing sports car powered by a Ford V8. It looked like a promising starting point, so Ford bought the rights to the car along with the services of Lola founder Eric Broadley. The Lola Mk.6 GT was completely re-engineered to become the Ford GT40. And it wasn’t a success.
A phalanx of GT40s was entered for Le Mans in 1964, but not a single one of them finished the race. The same thing happened again in 1965. Ferrari, meanwhile, dominated.
In a last ditch effort to rescue the project, Ford handed it over to legendary race car builder Carroll Shelby, himself a Le Mans winner. Shelby contracted British-born racer Ken Miles to develop the GT40. Miles had a reputation for being difficult to work with, but he was an immensely quick racer and a brilliant test driver.
It’s the relationship between Shelby and Miles that Ford v Ferrari follows, as they battle to turn the GT40 into a winner while Ford’s management breath down their neck. And it looks really good.
Matt Damon plays the driven Shelby, with Christian Bale as the mercurial Miles. The two leads seem to have a great chemistry and the racing action we see in this trailer looks extremely realistic – albeit necessarily CGI-heavy. There’s some laughs along the way, too. James Mangold (Logan, Knight And Day) directs.
We know how the story ends, as the GT40 won Le Mans in ’66, ’67, ’68 and ’69. Unfortunately for Miles, though he crossed the line first in ’66, the stewards awarded the win to teammates Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon on technicality. Miles was denied a unique triple as he had won both Daytona 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours earlier in the year in the GT40. Just a few months later, he was killed while testing the GT40-based J-Car.
Ford v Ferrari is released in cinemas on November 15.