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Ford Top 10 Open-Wheel Highlights

By: John Oreovicz, ESPN.com
Thursday, May 26, 2011

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In 2011, Ford Racing is celebrating its 110-year anniversary. This month the Indianapolis 500, one of the crown jewels of American racing, is celebrating its Centennial Anniversary. Ford Racing has had many legendary moments not only at the famed brickyard but throughout the storied history of American open-wheel racing.

10—COSWORTH SETS NEW ENGINE STANDARDS. When Honda and Toyota switched allegiance to the Indy Racing League, Ford stepped up to provide engines for the entire CART series field in 2003. Cosworth developed its XF engine into the XFE, setting new standards for racing engine durability and affordability. Paul Tracy was the first driver to win a race and a championship with the XFE, which continued to serve the re-branded Champ Car World Series through early 2008.

9—FORD-COSWORTH PROVES SUPERIORITY. Honda built Twin Ring Motegi at great expense, carving it out of a Japanese mountaintop near its headquarters. Honda was desperate to win its home race, but never did during five years of CART sanction. The first driver to spoil Honda’s party was Adrian Fernandez, who drove a Ford-Cosworth XD powered car to victory in 1998. Fernandez (and Ford-Cosworth) repeated as the Japanese victors in 1999, and Michael Andretti and Kenny Brack continued Ford-Cosworth’s mastery of Motegi over the next two years.

8—XB LEAVES LASTING RECORDS AT INDY. The Ford-Cosworth XB powered 24 of the 33 cars in the 1996 Indianapolis 500, including that of winner Buddy Lazier. But the most lasting marks the XB left on Indianapolis Motor Speedway were the track records established by Arie Luyendyk - 237.498 mph for one lap and 236.986 mph for the four-lap qualifying run. Luyendyk also set the unofficial IMS record of 239.260 mph in practice.

7—A LOSS LEADS TO MULTIPLE WINS. Ford officially re-entered Indy car racing prior to the 1992 season, commissioning Cosworth to build a new generation engine. Michael Andretti dominated the Indianapolis 500 but his car lost fuel pressure with just 11 laps remaining. Andretti and the XB went on to win five races over the rest of the 1992 season, beginning with the GI Joe’s 200 at Portland International Raceway.

6—“TRIPLE CROWN” SWEPT BY UNSER. The Cosworth DFX went on to dominate Indy car racing in the late 1970s and well into the ‘80s, scoring more than 150 race wins (including the Indianapolis 500 from 1978-87) and powering eleven consecutive USAC and CART series champions. An especially significant victory in that span was Al Unser’s triumph in the 1978 California 500, making him the only driver in history to sweep the “Triple Crown” of 500-mile races.

5—FOYT SETS A FOURTH RECORD WIN. AJ Foyt Racing took over the development and distribution of the four-cam Ford in 1970 and he continued to campaign the engine with success against competition from Offenhauser and Cosworth. Foyt’s crowning achievement as a driver/constructor/engine builder came when he drove a Coyote/Foyt-Ford to his record setting fourth victory in the Indianapolis 500, a feat since matched by just two men.

4—FORMULA 1 CHANGES SPECS TO MATCH INDY. In late 1974, Vel’s Parnelli Jones Racing built a Ford-Cosworth DFV powered Formula 1 car for driver Mario Andretti. The VPJ F1 program ground to a halt in 1976, but then, the team converted one of its Formula 1 chassis into USAC Indy car specifications and mated it to a turbocharged DFV engine de-stroked reduce capacity from 3.0 to 2.65 liters. Ford never officially provided factory support to the DFX project, though its development was later taken over by Cosworth.

3—REAR ENGINE VICTORIOUS AT INDY 500. The strong performance of the Lotus-Ford in 1963 convinced Ford to design an upgraded engine that featured double overhead cams. Through the use of fuel-injection and exhausts exiting from the center of the vee, the four-cam Ford achieved its goal of an additional 50 horsepower. Clark claimed pole position at Indianapolis in 1964, but tire problems forced his retirement. In 1965, Clark dominated the “500,” leading 190 of 200 laps to earn the first rear engine victory at Indianapolis. By 1967, the Indianapolis field would consist solely of rear engine cars.

2 – LOTUS REAR ENGINES DEBUT WITH A WIN.  As a driver, Dan Gurney watched Formula 1 transition from front-engine to rear-engine cars in the early 1960s. He approached Ford executives and Team Lotus boss Colin Chapman and convinced them to team up for an assault on the USAC Indy car racing. Driving Lotus cars powered by production derived Ford V-8s, Clark and Gurney finished second and seventh respectively in the 1963 Indianapolis 500, with Clark the only driver capable of running with eventual victor Parnelli Jones. Clark went on to score the first victory for a rear engine Indy car in a 200-mile race at the Milwaukee Mile later that year, with Gurney placing third.

1-- FORD AND “SWEEPSTAKES” WIN SIDE BY SIDE.  At the dawn of the automotive era, Henry Ford believed people viewed cars as “fast toys” and reasoned that he needed to enter one of his cars in competition to prove his ideas for mass production. With a five-man crew, he built a car nicknamed “Sweepstakes” and entered it in a race at the Detroit Driving Club billed as “the biggest event of its kind” in America. On October 10, 1901 Ford competed on a 1-mile dirt track in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, where “Sweepstakes” averaged 45 mph to defeat Alexander Winton and win the first and only race of his driving career. Ford won $1000, but more importantly, the widespread publicity gained from his victory attracted investment in the Ford Motor Company. 

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