Ford Motor Company is calling today the 115th anniversary of the “official start of Ford’s racing program,” as it was on October 10st, 1901 that Henry Ford himself drove the famous race car Sweepstakes to victory in the entrepreneur’s first (and only) automobile race.
It’s a tale as old as time: Henry Ford, then 38-years-old, had just walked away from the failed Detroit Automobile Company that he’d founded. He needed financial backing for his next venture, and saw automobile racing as a means to acquire it. So, with a bit of outside help, Ford created the Sweepstakes: a simple race car powered by a 26-horsepower, two-cylinder engine displacing an incredible 539 cubic inches (about 8.8 liters).
With a paltry volume-specific power output of around 3 horsepower-per-liter, the car nonetheless overcame its competitor being driven by Alexander Winton – then considered the greatest automobile racer in America. The crowd, we imagine, went wild.
— Ford Performance (@FordPerformance) October 10, 2016
Now, 115 years later, Ford Performance has just wrapped up a thoroughly successful season of racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with the new Ford GT. Technically, it’s about as similar to Sweepstakes as an Olympic athlete to a microbe; spiritually, they’re very much the same, in that both are pioneering showcases of automotive innovation for their respective eras.
Here’s to another 115 years of Ford racing.