The feud that fuelled Hollywood’s upcoming racing thriller Ford v. Ferrari
This is the true story behind 1966’s infamous race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans
Two Oscar winners and the director behind one of the most critically acclaimed films of 2017. When artistes of such calibre, namely Matt Damon, Christian Bale and James Mangold, are teaming up to showcase a historic rivalry, you know something special is in the works.
Ford v. Ferrari tells the story of two men who attempt to give Ford a competitive advantage over racing champion Ferrari—during the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France. However, the internet is buzzing due to the real-life scenarios that led to this iconic battle.
There’s a lot of bad blood between the automotive giants which eventually led to this showdown. Interestingly enough, it can be traced back to World War II. When the conflict commenced, Ferarri was reportedly ordered by the Italian regime to build its warplane engines and tools. This lead to the planes of the Allied forces—powered by engines and planes like the B-24 Liberator built by Ford—to bomb the Ferrari factory. Twice. The Italians are said to have returned the favour, in kind.
Fast forward to 1963. Henry Ford II tried to acquire the entire Ferrari brand. When Enzo Ferrari walked away from the deal at the very last minute, the American was left fuming and he demanded that his team create a car that would wipe the Italian stallion from the face of the racing world. What’s more, Ford wanted to achieve this at the toughest motor race in the world: Le Mans.
They failed to do so both in ’64 and ’65. It is then that the American carmaker roped in an iconic racer-engineer duo, Ken Miles(Bale) and Carroll Shelby (Damon). “This is David vs. Goliath vs. Goliath,” said Bale, who plays the eccentric English racer. In a recent interview, he added, “You’ve got the industrial Goliath with Ford and the charismatic Goliath of reputation with Ferrari, and then this true story of the triumph of the misfits.”
The vehicle, GT 40, created by Shelby’s squad—went on to win Le Mans four years in a row, from 1966 to 1969, including a 1-2-3 sweep of the podium. Yet, as racing aficionados are aware, the 1966 edition of the event was riddled with controversy. Especially for Miles, whose bittersweet run at the finale, turned tragic within months. Nonetheless, the upcoming film is not just about racing and this rivalry. “This is much more of a relationship movie and less a historical document,” concludes Mangold.