I Talked To Henry Ford III About the Ford GT, Le Mans, And Forza 6

Henry Ford III is an important man. He handles the marketing efforts of Ford Performance and, as his name implies, is from a distinguished line of individuals responsible for some of the best and most important cars in history. You may remember that his grandfather—along with Carroll Shelby—waged the infamous grudge match against Enzo Ferrari that gave rise to the birth of the GT40.

So when I was given the opportunity to chat with Henry about the GT, next year's Le Mans, the history of the supercar, and its role on Forza 6, I couldn't have possibly said no.

Obviously you guys had that big announcement this morning with the GT returning to France.

Yeah. We're pretty excited about it.

I’ll bet. That car is very emotional for a lot of people, but I would imagine that it’s even more so for you. What does it mean, personally, to see it coming back?

For me personally, I lived through my dad a little bit. My dad was actually at Le Mans in 1966 with my grandfather [Henry Ford II] when we won for the first time, and when I talked to him about what that experience was like, he described it as life-changing. I think it was, both for him and for my grandfather, and for our company. Now that we're returning, it means a lot because to me. Racing has always been a key element for our DNA.

Going back to my great-great-grandfather, Henry Ford, who won a very important race back in 1901 against Alexander Winton, who at the time was the most famous race car driver. The fact that this underdog named Henry Ford came out of nowhere and beat this guy in a race gave him the notoriety to start his own motor company. When I think of Ford, I think of us as being born on the race track and racing has always been a big part of our DNA. I love the fact that we're going back because it feels very natural and it feels very authentic to be back at Le Mans, especially to be back there with such a historic car like the GT.

It means a lot to me on a personal level, but also from a company standpoint, too, I think its really important because it gives us a really great way to showcase a lot of the technology that we have been working on as a company. To me, one of the important things about racing is that it gives us a way to test and prove out these technologies that we can then incorporate across our line-up. This is a halo vehicle for us, but it's a lot more than just a beautiful car. It's a beautiful car that we can use as a tool to continue innovating and progressing the technology in our vehicles. It's about bringing these innovations to market and cascading them down across the entire performance line-up, the entire Ford line-up.

You called the car a showcase for the upcoming technologies. What would you say is your favorite feature on the car, something that really resonates strongly with you?

For me, it's probably the carbon fiber. This is the first vehicle we've done that uses carbon fiber in the way that we're using it now. It's a passenger cell. It's the body panels. The way we're bonding it to aluminum to create this ultra high efficiency vehicle and eventually, when it's all said and done, we'll have an extremely competitive power to weight ratio given our competition. That really excites me because it's the next generation of performance, I think. It's not just power, but it's power and efficiency at the same time. I think that's really cool because the advantages of that go far beyond performance in and of itself. It captures what a lot of other people and what a lot of our customers are interested in too, which is fuel efficiency. Creating this product takes the best of both worlds. I think it's really interesting.

Is there chance some of the classic liveries will make an appearance on these cars?

We will have more to say about that later this year or early next year, but we do recognize that there's been a lot of enthusiasm for those classic liveries. It's really exciting, especially these days, when you see the '05 GT with the Gulf Oil livery as such high value options. We certainly see the value in those liveries and it's a great way to help tell our story about this storied vehicle that has such an amazing past. We really see the value in that and we'll have more to say about that in the coming months.

Hypothetically, if you had one lap of Le Mans, do you pick the new GT or the classic?

That's a great question. Wow. I would have to say I would pick this one. I've been involved in this program, so from a personal standpoint, it would mean a lot to me to be able to take a lap at Le Mans in this car because I've actually been a part of it, at least from a marketing standpoint, the development of it. I certainly wouldn't turn down a lap in the old one, I'll tell you that much.

Looking at the GT, the GT350, and the Focus RS—with its RS and Cosworth lineage—it seems obvious that Ford Performance is doing a lot with some of Ford's most nostalgic names. Do you see Ford Performance as the caretaker of Ford's history?

I do. Absolutely, one hundred percent. From a customer standpoint, we really recognize and celebrate the passion and enthusiasm that so many of our customers have for their vehicles. We want to continue fueling that passion because everyone inside of Ford feels that passion as well. We want to use these cars as mechanisms to help share and spread that passion to all of our customers. Absolutely. Ford Performance is absolutely a part of the company's DNA and it has been for many years and I believe it will be for many years to come.

How do you temper that heritage with the need to be innovative?

That's a really good question. If you look at the GT, there are some design cues that you can pick up that are clearly reminiscent of the ‘60s GT. We do that on purpose. Especially if you look at the new Mustang as well. Our challenge is always to incorporate some of the vehicle's DNA, but at the same time evolve it and make it forward-looking and include, obviously, the latest technological advances. It's always a balance because you want to celebrate and maintain that heritage and that DNA, but you've got to keep it forward-looking at the same time. It's not easy to do, but I do think we've captured it in the GT and especially in the GT350 as well.

Do you have any plans to take the GT350R or the Focus RS racing?

[Laughs] We have no plans to share on that right now. But stay tuned.

The GT’s on the cover of Forza, which is a pretty big deal. How’d all that come together?

We've been working with the team from Forza for the past year or so now and really, in painstaking detail, recreating the Ford GT to a level so that when you are driving that car in the game, it feels like you are actually in the car. We really like that idea because it helps us reach a customer base and it helps make the GT a really accessible vehicle for a lot of people. Most of us, myself included, will probably never be able to drive the GT at Le Mans, but you can do it in Forza. When you do it Forza, it feels real. That's a relationship that we're really excited about.

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