Caught up in publicity about Ford Motor Company’s return to the prestigious 24-hour LeMans endurance race, only four months away, I’m reproducing my review of the epic battle between Enzo Ferrari and Henry Ford II (“The Deuce”) below. It’s a terrific read!
Once again, in this year’s race, a Ford GT will represent the company, this time with a lightweight carbon fiber chassis and advanced aerodynamics. Most surprising, it will be running on a V6 EcoBoost engine against the V8s and V12s of its competitors. Ford is confident the V6 EcoBoost can do the job because it has powered Fords to the checkered flag at both the 12-hour Sebring in 2014 and the Rolex 24 at Daytona last year. See how this bright new red-white-and-Ford-Blue competitor evolved from its predecessors.
Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans, by A. J. Baime, read by Jones Allen, recounts classic duels of machines and drivers in the French countryside. It includes just enough biography of Henry Ford II and Enzo Ferrari to understand the motivations of these two rivals, willing to stake their fortunes, their companies’ futures, and (all too often) their drivers’ lives on this grueling competition. The Deuce believed—correctly—that supremacy in the racing circuit would lead to sales of Ford cars. And, when the Ford GTs came in 1-2-3 in 1966, his big gamble paid off. This sweep was followed up with wins in the next three LeMans races.
The components that had to be developed to survive the 24-hour race at Le Mans were testaments to product reliability as well as power, and many advances originally developed for racing vehicles—such as independent suspensions, high-performance tires, disc brakes, and push-button starters—have found their way into passenger cars. (The new 2016 racer already has inspired features built into Ford’s GT Supercar, available this year.)
For Enzo Ferrari, whose interest in consumer cars was always secondary to racing, the point was being the world’s best and proving it in the world’s most prestigious and dangerous sports car race, Le Mans. If you’re at all familiar with auto racing’s “golden age,” the big names are all here in this book: Carroll Shelby, A. J. Foyt, Dan Gurney, Phil Hill, John Surtees, Ken Miles, Bruce McLaren, and an upstart kid from Nazareth, Pennsylvania, who took the pole position in the Indianapolis 500 the year I saw the race, Mario Andretti. To get an idea of the speeds they achieve, Baime noted that at top speed they complete the 100-yard distance of a football field in one second.
This was a fast, fun read that shifts between Dearborn, Shelby’s racing car development team working for Ford in Southern California, and Ferrari’s workshop in Maranello, Italy. For a Detroit girl like me, whose grandfather, father, and many uncles worked for the Ford Motor Company, it was a thrill a minute! But even for people who don’t get goosebumps when they hear those Formula One engines roar, Baime’s cinematic recreation of the classic Le Mans races of 1965, 66, and 67, with all their frustrations, excitement, and tragedy is a spectacular true story.