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RideLust Books: “Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans”

Posted in Fast Cars, Favorite Cars, Ferrari, Ford, Ford GT, History, Old Cars, Racing by Alex Kierstein | June 9th, 2009 | Leave a Reply |
<i>Ferrari 330 P3, otherwise known as the definition of hot.</i>

Ferrari 330 P3, otherwise known as the definition of hot.

Just in time for the upcoming Le Mans race this weekend, it’s a book all about the coolest automotive rivalry of all time, fought at over 200 MPH on the Mulsanne Straight. It’s Enzo Ferrari versus Henry Ford II, and money is no object. The goal is worldwide bragging rights, and the dueling weapons are two of the most iconic racecars of all time: the Ford GT40 and the Ferrari 330 P3. The book is “Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans.” Make the jump for an excerpt of the book, from the author’s website.

Excerpt from “Go Like Hell”

NO ONE BELIEVED the Americans stood a chance. It would be a miracle if they beat the Ferraris in their debut at Le Mans. In fact, it would seem a miracle if they could keep their racing cars on the road. But then, in the spring of 1964, people had grown used to the unexpected, to heroic events and shocking headlines. In the previous 12 months John F. Kennedy had been assassinated, the U.S. Congress had passed the first civil rights bill, and the Soviets had launched the first woman into space. Cassius Clay had knocked out Sonny Liston in Miami Beach, and Martin Luther King had marched on Washington.

The Ford team checked into the Hôtel de France in La Chartre sur le Loire, as did an army of Ford men from Dearborn, Michigan: carburetor specialists, tire and engine men. Wednesday through Friday were practice and qualifying days, and the race started at four p.m. Saturday. It all had to go like clockwork, down to the customs papers to get the Ford cars into the country.

On the morning of the first practice session, the pit lane filled with cars painted in national racing colors: red Alfa Romeo Giulia TZs, silver Porsche 904s, green Jaguar E-Types. Ferrari’s lead driver, John Surtees, was spotted, as was the American Phil Hill. Carroll Shelby arrived with a pair of Cobra Daytona coupes, painted Guardsman blue with white stripes. There was no way to measure the man-hours, ingenuity and soul that had gone into these cars. Shelby was a fan favorite in France. When he walked out onto the pavement and looked up at the empty, towering grandstands, it all came back to him: the magic of this place. If his Cobras could win the GT class, his little automobile company would be assured survival.

“Outside of the United States,” Shelby told a Sports Illustrated reporter, “the Le Mans race has more prestige than all the other races put together. Le Mans receives throughout the world probably five times as much publicity as Indianapolis. Any automobile manufacturer who wants to make a name for himself in racing has to do well at Le Mans.”

The first engine sounded, and soon revs were coming from all directions. The air stank of exhaust and hot pavement. One by one, cars motored onto the circuit. Stopwatches clicked off vital seconds. The press box grew loud with the sound of thumping typewriters. Facing the three Fords and two Cobras, Ferrari had entered four cars, and a number of privateers were racing their own Ferraris, also prepared at the factory by Enzo Ferrari’s men, bringing the total to eight entries branded with the prancing horse.

From the first day of practice it became apparent that the race would move at historic speeds. One after another, Ferraris cut deeper into the circuit, shattering the Le Mans lap record: 3:47.2, then 3:47. By the end of qualifying, the crowds that had begun to amass were left with a cliffhanger. Surtees set the best time in his Ferrari: 3:42. His speed was dumbfounding. He’d knocked more than 10 seconds off his own lap record from the year before. But a Ford qualified next, and Phil Hill was fourth. Over the 8.36-mile course, less than four seconds separated the top four qualifiers.

[Source: Go Like Hell]

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