Movie Review: Ford vs. Ferrari
Published: May 1, 2023

There are many stories worth telling in the world of racing. From epic rivalries to underdog victories, racing captures the heart of competition. To the uninvested spectator, it may seem like a simple sport. A person in a sports car tries to be the first to cross the finish line. However, those of us that see the passion and potential in each race know that it is never that simple.

Movie Review: Ford vs. Ferrari

Ford vs. Ferrari, a 2019 film by director James Mangold, featuring Matt Damon as automotive designer Carroll Shelby and Christian Bale as British racer Ken Miles, tells the triumphant story of the rivalry between Ford and Ferrari at the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1966. This race was through a country road in Le Mans, France. The single lap, known as the Circuit de la Sarthe, was 8.5 miles. Drivers speed through this terrain for 24 hours, and the car that covers the greatest distance is the winner. As shown in the film, cars must be fast, light, and durable to withstand this ultimate endurance test.

The Engine That Would Defeat Ferrari

Relatively accurate to the true story, Ford vs. Ferrari took few liberties in embellishing how Ford was able to rise above. Le Mans ’66 was a special year that changed racing. Faced with more competition than ever before in selling to younger drivers post-WWII and Ferrari backing out of a merger with Ford, Ford Motor Company decided to enter Le Mans and end Ferrari’s multiyear victory streak.

Ford, Miles, and Shelby worked tirelessly to build a vehicle that would destroy Ferrari. One of the integral tests they ran to ensure they had a car that could maintain high speeds for 24 hours, was running the engine on a dynamometer. Computer-controlled servo actuators “drove” the engine as if it was actually at Le Mans. Testing pit stops, shutdowns, and speed, each engine was run until it exploded. Once the problem was identified the engineers started again. They weren’t satisfied until one engine was able to survive multiple simulations. The GT40 Mark II with a 7-liter 427 cubic-inch V-8 engine.

Le Mans 1966

While the first 90 minutes of the film are dedicated to showing how Ford, Miles, and Shelby came together to take down Ferrari, the last hour is right on the track. This film has been lauded for how this extensive battle brings viewers right into the action of a race. It would be difficult to not feel the ever-present danger on that 8.5 miles of country road.

An unbelievable finish that you would think only Hollywood is capable of conceiving, all three Ford racers crossed the finish line simultaneously. Miles would have won minutes ahead of all racers. However, at the urging of Ford and Shelby, Miles slowed down and all three drivers finished together in a display of Ford’s record-breaking achievement. This decision ended up robbing Miles of the coveted privilege of winning Sebring, Daytona, and Le Mans in the same year. Shelby later admitted that he regretted this decision for the rest of his life due to what it cost Miles.

The film brings an hour-long fight to the finish with this dramatic win. If not for fact-checkers and records, you wouldn’t be unreasonable in assuming it was a piece of Hollywood fiction.

Ford vs. Ferrari and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame

The film does a fantastic job of showing how corporations, marketing, physics, and personal lives all contribute to racing. To the legends before us and the innovators that changed the racing world forever, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame is dedicated to honoring them. If you would like to learn more about the world of racing, then schedule a tour and be inspired by the real-world stories worthy of Hollywood.