DAYTONA, Fla. – All three 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost-powered prototypes led laps in their competitive debut at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, one of the most grueling endurance races in North America.
It was the first race for Ford’s spotlight powerplant and a powerful statement by the company that announced its intention to return to factory-backed competition with the two teams with the twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 last fall. Bringing EcoBoost power to the TUDOR United SportsCar Series is part of an overall strategy to showcase the power and fuel-efficiency advantages of Ford’s global EcoBoost brand.
The No. 01 Telcel/Target and No. 02 Target/Telcel Ford EcoBoost Rileys owned by Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (CGRFS) and No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford EcoBoost Riley all saw significant time at the front of the ultra-competitive prototype category, formed by the combination of the former Daytona Prototype and LMP2 entries under the newly created TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
After staying in the top five through most of the race and tracking the leaders with one hour to go, the Target/Telcel car succumbed to issues with the underbody of the Riley prototype chassis. Ozz Negri, AJ Allmendinger, Justin Wilson and John Pew drove the No. 60 of Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian to a 12th-place finish in category despite earlier transmission issues.
“If you had looked at the Ford EcoBoost cars, two-thirds of the way through the race we were all on the lead lap, charging, swapping the lead,” team owner Michael Shank said. “I thought we had something for them. The engine ran great the whole time. We had a first gear failure, was able to fix that but go four laps down. We felt we could get that back. But then the shrapnel in the system got in all the ports and drove the oil pressure down and we had to come back in to change the back half off. It was like a cancer.
“I'm so impressed with the folks in Dearborn (Mich.). What they did in four weeks with this EcoBoost race motor is insane. If the general public knew what the Ford folks did in Detroit (this month), they'd probably buy Fords the rest of their life. It's that impressive.”
The EcoBoost effort at the Rolex 24 was the payoff of two months of ceaseless work by engineers from Ford Racing and Ford Motor Company, Roush Yates Engines, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates and Michael Shank Racing – and two years of planning and preparation. Not even last-minute rule changes and the adaptation of the cars to the new turbocharged technology could derail the incredible team effort.
“It's always disappointing when you don't win, but all three of our cars were well-placed and led laps,” said Raj Nair, Group Vice President, Global Product Development, Ford Motor Company. “Obviously we didn't finish where we wanted, and in a 24-hour race, everything really needs to go your way. We've been working hard on developing our production 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine for endurance racing, including multiple simulated 24 hour races on our dynos in Dearborn (Mich.).
“We were happy with our power at the Roar test, but believe the intake restrictor change instituted after the Roar affected our turbo V6 more than other naturally aspirated engines. We suspect the 01 car suffered an engine failure and we will be working on that issue, which may result in us using the stock crankshaft in the future. The EcoBoost engines in the 02 and 60 performed well throughout the race so we were pleased with that performance. The Ford and Roush Yates teams will be working flat out between now and Sebring to give our teams the best chance of winning.”
Ford’s EcoBoost engine down-sizing technology uses direct-injection, turbocharging, variable valve timing and proprietary software tuning to provide the fuel-efficiency of a smaller engine with the power of a larger engine, giving consumers the fuel-economy they need and the power they want.
The engine block that propelled all three cars to the lead came straight from the assembly line before being made race-ready at Roush Yates. Seventy percent of the DP EcoBoost engine is stock production pieces – an opportunity to showcase the power and economy of Ford products on dealership lots on a level rare in motorsports.
The CGRFS entries lead the race for a total of 67 laps (No. 01 two times for five laps and No. 02 six times for 62 laps). The No. 02 car was leading the Rolex 24 At Daytona at both the six-hour and 12-hour mark.
Scott Pruett set the fastest lap of the four drivers in the No. 01 car on lap 238 with a lap time of 1:40.562, while Tony Kanaan set the fast time of the four drivers in the No. 02 on lap 613 with a lap time of 1:40.185.
“I can’t say enough about the Ford guys and how far we have come from the Roar,” Pruett said. “It seemed like from the start the 01 car was just plagued with problems. The pit stop, then me hitting the fence. It breaks my heart that I hit the fence and then this. But to see where we were, and where we are now, this is a great step moving forward with this program.
“This is a whole new engine with technology that hasn’t been in the sport before. And for Ford to step forward like they did with the Roush Yates guys and the Ganassi guys… wow. We were here at the Roar and we left early because we had issues. So coming back here, everyone put forth this gallant effort ... change this, re-do this, change that. To run like we did, when you think about where we were at the Roar, it’s huge.”
Ford’s two millionth EcoBoost engine came off the line in September of 2013. The fuel-saving EcoBoost technology is now available in over 90 percent of the 2014 Ford product line-up, and includes 1.0-liter (Fiesta), 1.5-liter (Fusion), 1.6-liter (Fiesta, Fusion, Escape), 2.0-liter (Focus, Fusion, Escape, Taurus, Explorer), and 3.5-liter (Taurus, Explorer, F-150) versions. Ford has also announced a new 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine, which will be available on the all-new 2015 Mustang, as well as an all-new 2.7-liter EcoBoost that will make its debut in the 2015 Ford F-150.