Moody-run GT40 was in third place, albeit
several laps down.
At this point, Ford officials watching
from the pits decided that the only thing
better than an American car winning
Le Mans for the first time would be an
all-American photo finish. Instructions
were relayed to McLaren and Miles, and
both headed out for their final stint.
It was only then, according to reports,
that the ACO informed Ford that a photo
finish was not on the cards: if the two cars
crossed the line side-by-side, McLaren
and Amon would be declared the winner
by virtue of having started slightly further
back, and therefore having covered a
greater distance over the 24 hours.
As it happened, they were not quite
line astern anyway – depending who you
believe, either McLaren sped up slightly,
or Miles slowed down. Either way,
McLaren was a nose ahead at the
checkered flag – although Miles didn’t
learn that he’d only finished second until
he was headed for the podium.
Contentious? Absolutely. But it remains
the closest finish in Le Mans history, and
the bedrock of Ford’s four consecutive
overall wins between 1966-’ 69.
While the 1966-’ 69
wins made Ford a
huge part of Le Mans
history, others later
used the Blue Oval’s
DNA to similar effect.
A Ford Cosworth
engine powered Derek
Bell and Jacky Ickx’s
Gulf Mirage to victory
in 1975 (ABOVE), and
Jean Rondeau and
repeated the feat in
their Le Mans-built
Rondeau chassis five
years later, in 1980.
he 1965 24 Hours of Le Mans bruised
the very souls of all those connected with
the Ford Motor Company: a massive
multi-car program translated into nothing
more than a long list of DNFs, while
arch-rival Ferrari finished 1- 2-3.
That wasn’t going to happen again in
1966. The humiliation of ’ 65 spurred an
intensive development program for the
GT40 Mk II, with Ken Miles doing much of
the heavy lifting over the winter. That work
paid off when Miles opened the new year
with wins at Daytona and Sebring, and the
U.S.-based Briton was keen to complete a
rare triple with victory at Le Mans.
Ford’s eight-car factory effort at
Le Mans was split across three teams –
Shelby, long-time Ford stock car partners
Holman Moody, and British team Alex
Mann Racing. Their first job was to beat
Ferrari, but that problem took care of
itself: by sunrise on Sunday morning, all
of Maranello’s frontline cars had retired.
Dawn broke with Miles leading in the
car that he shared with Denny Hulme,
followed by the all-Kiwi pairing of Bruce
McLaren and Chris Amon in their
Despite Ford’s wishes for a dead heat between
its lead cars, Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon
(ABOVE) were awarded the victory.
Jackie Stewart participated in Le Mans
testing, but suffered serious injuries in a
Belgian GP crash the week before the race.
After an emphatic
rout at the hands of
Ferrari at Le Mans in
1965, Ford poured
countless dollars into
development of the
GT40 Mk II to ensure
a happier ending in
1966. The scale of its
effort was reflected
in the size of its
works program: eight
cars, run by three
WHAT FORD’S GT40 FLEET WHERE LE MANS, FRANCE WHEN JUNE 18-19, 1966