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Ford’s Group C Le Mans C100 race car was built to beat Porsche and Lancia, but never really got off the ground…

If the F3L race car had been Walter Hayes’ obsession, then the C100 was certainly the love of Vice President, Karl Ludvigsen’s life at Ford. 

To replace Ford’s Motorsport chief, Mike Kranefuss, successful journalist Ludvigsen was hired. With Boreham in hibernation, and with the Mk2 Escort now obsolete, he supported two new model programmes. One was the iconic Escort RS1700T, and the second — a massive new Group C racecar, the C100. The object, quite boldly, was to beat Porsche and Lancia in the exciting new category.

Design work began in 1980, with Len Bailey at the helm. His work on a new Le Mans car for privateer, Alain de Cadenet being the basis. The original mid-engined car, complete with a 540 bhp 3.9-litre Cosworth DFV V8 engine, ran in mid-1981, but had no success. For 1982, then, Kudvigsen diverted much effort to Zakspeed, closely allied to Ford-Germany, though monocoques were built by Hesketh Racing in the UK. The early experience was not encouraging, however. So Tony Southgate was drafted in to make design improvements. On the plus side, the cars were fast, but they were also unreliable.

For 1983 a full-blooded effort was planned from Zakspeed/Ford-Germany. The idea was to create two brand new cars engineered to high-tech standards by Tony Southgate. They would run Cosworth-developed 700 bhp turbocharged 3.9-litre engines for later in the season, but even before the first race took place, big changes at Ford saw Ludvigsen leave. With the return of Stuart Turner, the entire C100 programme was sadly cancelled. 

Sordid legal battles then followed in the UK, over the ownership and support of at least one car. Another car used in Germany was sporadically successful, but that, really, was the end of an over-ambitious project. The beautifully engineered C100 never really got off the ground, a real shame.

Words Graham Robson

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