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July 9, 2006

FORD REUNITES WINNING CARS FROM FAMOUS 1966: 1-2-3 FINISH AS HIGHLIGHT OF LE MANS CLASSIC

Ford GT40s at Le MansA reunion of the three Ford GT Mark II racing cars that conquered the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966 was the highlight of this year's Le Mans Classic, marking the 40th anniversary of a major event in the history of the world's most famous endurance race.

For the first time in 10 years, the three famed Ford GTs – led by the black and silver Shelby American Mark II of Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon that crossed the finish line first to claim victory for Ford – were reunited at Le Mans to recreate the moment. Ford of Europe had underwritten the cost of shipping the black car – loaned by American collector George Stauffer – to Le Mans for the prestigious historic racing event.

It was joined by the second-place car – the blue Shelby American Ford GT Mark II of Ken Miles and Denny Hulme – and the third-place car – the gold Holman-Moody entry for Ronnie Bucknum and Dick Hutcherson as Ford re-staged the 1-2-3 finish for fans and photographers during the countdown to the traditional 4 p.m. start of the Le Mans Classic 2006.

The second- and third-place cars were entered in the race, competing in the hands of American Bill Murray and Switzerland's Claude Nahum, respectively, in the Ford-sponsored 1966-1971 grid of the Le Mans Classic.

"The 1-2-3 finish at Le Mans in 1966 was a special moment in the history of this race and in Ford Motor Company's history," said Ford of Europe President and CEO John Fleming. "Today's restaging of the moment at the Le Mans Classic demonstrated how vividly it remains in the hearts and minds of enthusiasts."

A crowd of photographers at the Le Mans Classic – one of the premier events in European vintage racing – jostled to capture the image. Forty years earlier, Ford chairman Henry Ford II witnessed the historic victory. It was the culmination of his company's battle to become a force in international motorsport and beating Ferrari to the top prize in endurance racing.

The three winning cars then started an impressive lap of the circuit, leading the Ford GT race cars entered in the event, plus scores of Ford GT road cars and GT40 replicas.

Personalities from the 1966 victory, honoured in the anniversary celebration at the start-finish line of the famous La Sarthe circuit, included Sir John Whitmore, who qualified third in the 1966 race but failed to finish due to mechanical woes. Whitmore brought home the historical connection with 1966 by reprising his role from four decades earlier, piloting a 1964 GT40 with Britain 's Shawn Lynn at the Le Mans Classic.

Other 1966 honourees included:

Alan Mann, team owner of Alan Mann Racing, one of Ford's three multi-car entrants for the 1966 race
Lee Holman, who heads the American motorsport specialists Holman Moody. The team was another 1966 Ford entrant, and a young Lee Holman was on hand at Le Mans when a team entry finished third.
Harry Calton, Ford's Chief Press Officer at the 1966 Le Mans
Phil Henny, crew chief of the Filipinetti GT40, which ran as high as fifth before being sidelined by a crash
Brian Lewis, mechanic for Alan Mann Racing, whose car was first off the line that fateful Saturday
Jim Wallace, tyre specialist for the winning Shelby American team and now representing Carroll Shelby Enterprises.
In 1966, Henry Ford II dropped the French flag to start the Le Mans 24-hour event. Appropriately, it was John Fleming who waved the tricolour at 4pm on Saturday to start the first grid of the 2006 Le Mans Classic.

Fleming also presented a special trophy to the winner of the race's 1966-1971 grid at the conclusion of the race. Nicolas Minassian of France and Michael Jankowski of Switzerland won the grid after three strong performances in their 1971-vintage Ligier JS3, powered by a Ford Cosworth DFV engine.

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