40 Years Since Kiwi-Led Historic Le Mans 1-2-3
Ford Commerorates 40 Years Since Kiwi-Led Historic Le Mans 1-2-3
AUCKLAND, New Zealand, 29 June 2006
Ford Motor Company and New Zealand this week commemorated 40 years since the historic Ford GT 1-2-3 finish at the 1966 Le Mans 24 hour race, and the Motor Company's Chairman and CEO Bill Clay Ford Jr. has recognized New Zealand's place in this historic moment in a letter to the sole surviving driver, Chris Amon.
New Zealand drivers Amon and Bruce McLaren rewrote the motor racing record books when their Kiwi-inspired black and silver-striped Ford GT-40 crossed the Le Mans finish line alongside with the second-placed GT-40 of fellow Kiwis Denny Hulme and Ken Miles, and the third-placed GT-40 of Americans Dick Hutcheson and Ronnie Bucknum.
Controversy surrounded the result – in the staged finish, Hulme crossed the finish line marginally ahead of Amon's co-driver McLaren, however the officials ruled that. as Amon and McLaren had started further back on the grid, they had traveled a further distance and were therefore the winners.
The Ford 1-2-3 result in 1966 broke Ferarri's stranglehold on the Le Mans 24 hour endurance race and it remains a significant achievement in Ford's motor racing history.
"Making history is only for the great among us, and your efforts 40 years ago certainly rank you among the greatest," says Ford Motor Company Chairman William Clay Ford, Jr. in his letter to Amon.
"As a central figure of the team that took Ford to its first-ever victory at Le Mans, your place in our company's history is forever ensured."
"That victory, to this day, has solidified the Ford GT as one of the greatest cars of all time. And while history often glorifies great cars, we know the truth: it is brave men behind the wheel who make these cars perform!"
Amon, who now resides in Taupo, recalls the historic day in 1966:
"Undoubtedly the abiding memory I have, bearing in mind I was 22-years-old at the time, was just the sheer magnitude of the whole event after it had finished."
"One of my other memories sadly is of the other guys who are no longer with us. When I think back inevitably, I think of them."