Ford: Burning Rubber on the Race Track for 113 Years


Published on July 1st, 2014 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez


Ford: Burning Rubber on the Race Track for 113 Years

Ford drives his father, Henry

Ford’s racing heritage dates back as far as 1901, before the inception of Ford Motor Company in 1903. At that time, Henry Ford was 38 years old, married with one son, and after losing $86,000 in a failed venture, was broke. He was forced to move in with his father, William, and while some may have sulked or turned to another other profession, Henry dusted himself off and began plotting the next move toward achieving his dream of owning a car company.

So Henry put together a small team and built a car that was eventually called Sweepstakes. The car stood high off the ground with 28-inch wheels and its open-air design looked like a cross between an over-sized baby carriage and a small grand piano. When it comes to racing history, Sweepstake brings out unmatched emotions among fans and car enthusiasts.

“He knew that racing grabbed the public imagination and it just so happened that one of the biggest races in the country was being planned practically in Henry Ford’s backyard,” recalled Edsel B. Ford II, great-grandson of Henry Ford and a man very much involved in today’s Ford Racing program.

Ford GT40__UK Goodwood

“I don’t think it was my great-grandfather’s intention to ever win this race. He couldn’t afford to hire anyone, so he had to drive his own car. He had never raced before and he was up against the greatest driver in the country. Winning under those conditions would be unthinkable.”

Alexander Winton, the greatest driver of that time, proved to be Henry Ford’s lone competition on October 10, 1901 as 8,000 fans came to the Detroit Driving Club to watch a day of racing. All of the other competitors dropped out when their vehicles failed to start, so the main event essentially became a match race with the winner receiving $1,000 and a cut-glass punch bowl.

2012 WRC

However the impossible became the reality and Henry Ford won the race. “After he drove into the winner’s circle, a great crowd of spectators crowded him and shouted that they were willing to back him in any venture that involved wheels”, said Edsel Ford.

And while Henry made it clear that his days as a race car driver were over, he gladly accepted many of the offers from those willing to back him in what became the formation of Ford Motor Co. in June of 1903.

“I don’t think anybody really knows the impact of Sweepstakes,” said Edsel Ford. “There are many of us, including myself, who really believe that if my great grandfather hadn’t won that race in October, maybe the founding of the Ford Motor Company 20 months later might not have happened.”

Today, Ford’s 113 years of racing heritage boasts more than 1,000 NASCAR and 176 F1 victories. Throughout its racing history, Ford has often restyled and modified its race cars, either out of demand or, in order to standardise competition standards.

Goodyear f1 650x85(DSF)

Most Famous Racing Vehicles

Model T

Simply put, this car changed the way people lived. For the first time in history, car ownership became a reality for average American workers, not just the wealthy. From 1908 to 1927 almost 15 million models were built. In 1909 two Ford’s T Models entered in the “Ocean to Ocean” race from New York to Seattle which led to a start of company’s continuous support of racing.

Purple Hog

While Sweepstakes represents the first race car in Ford Racing history, the Purple Hog symbolizes Ford’s first factory-backed NASCAR effort. With “Shirtless” Jimmy Florian’s victory at Dayton (Ohio) Speedway on June 25, 1950 being the manufacturer’s only series victory, Ford decided to step up its commitment to NASCAR in 1955 by developing an overhead valve V-8 engine to replace the outdated flathead version. The car was nicknamed Purple Hog because it was painted bright purple and white.

Ford GT40

In the 1960 Ford became interested in long-distance racing and decided to invest into development of its first racing model. This resulted into creation of GT40. This high performance American-British racing car saw its golden days in the 1960s when it won 24 Hours of Le Mans four times in a row from 1966 to 1969. The 1966 Le Mans was attended by Henry Ford II himself and provided the first victory for Ford in a major European race. Originally, the Ford GT40 was produced for long distance races to compete against Ferrari. The car was brought back to life in 2005 and 2006 when new Ford GT was produced for the races with inspiration being drown from the 60s model.

Ford Focus RS WRC

Another iconic vehicle, based on the Ford Focus Climate road hatchback that took part in races from 1999 to 2010. 2005 was a breakthrough year for the company when Ford Focus WRC 2006 debuted in final rally of the 2005 season, giving Ford its second manufacturer’s title and making this model Ford’s most successful rally car so far. Within 11 years, Ford Focus WRC won 44 races.

Ford Focus v8-powered1

Ford Fiesta RS WRC

Like its predecessor Ford Focus, Ford Fiesta is based on its production model and is powered by 1.6L EcoBoost engine, rather than the 2.0L engine normally found in contemporary race cars. Ford Fiesta RS WRC was launched in 2011 to comply with new FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) technical regulations and since then it has already won six races.

Ford Mustang in Need for Speed

Mustang is, without doubt, Ford’s most iconic car, with more than 3,000 appearances in movies and TV shows. But for enthusiasts, the legend of Mustang was born on the race track. Mustang made its first racing appearance just a month after its April 17th introduction as a pace car for the 1964 Indianapolis 500. The same year, Mustang won first and second in class in the Tour de France rally. This was just the beginning of Mustang’s racing career as a car that brought racing thrill and styling at a price almost anyone could afford.

Recently Mustang celebrated its 50th birthday and came back to the silver screen in DreamWorks Studios’ “Need for Speed”. The movie is inspired by the long-running series of driving video games from Electronic Arts. The film’s star, Aaron Paul (“Breaking Bad”), is joined by one-of-a-kind customized Mustang playing the role of the hero car.

“’Need for Speed’ is rooted in Americana, and when we were casting our hero car for the film, Ford Mustang was the obvious choice,” said Snider. “With its 50-year history in film, the iconic Mustang is the perfect co-star for Aaron Paul.”


The “Need for Speed” Mustang features a custom-designed wide body, unique 22-inch alloy wheels, and larger air intakes to feed the supercharged V8 engine under its classic Mustang twin-nostril hood.

This October Ford will be celebrating its 113th year on race track. For more information on Ford’s racing heritage go to

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