(Ford Racing Archives)
Le Mans, France, 1966. The Dan Gurney/Jerry Grant Shelby American Ford Mark II in the pits at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Eight of the big-block 427 Ford GTs were entered by three factory-backed teams: Alan Mann Racing (England), Holman & Moody and Shelby American. The Ford Mark IIs had already won at the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring earlier in the season (with Ken Miles the lead driver in both wins), so expectations were high for Le Mans. Ferrari was no match for the Ford onslaught that year, as Henry Ford II basically gave the racing program a blank check to win - or else. The Ferrari challenge had evaporated with less than three hours to go, so the flying Fords were steaming to the finish with the Ken Miles/Denny Hulme Shelby American-entered Mark II leading, followed by the Shelby team car of Bruce McLaren/Chris Amon on the same lap. Ronnie Bucknum and Dick Hutcherson were third in a Holman & Moody entry, but they were a distant twelve laps behind. Then, it got all screwed up. Ford minions insisted on an orchestrated finish, because a 1-2-3 Ford triumph at the world's most prestigious endurance race would be big-time news. Bruce McLaren followed closely behind Miles at the finish with Ronnie Bucknum trailing, the expected outcome to be a win for Miles/Hulme. But the organizers of the event declared that McLaren/Amon had actually won the race because it covered more distance during the 24 hours, having started lower in the field than Miles/Hulme. It turned out to be the closest finish in the history of the event, but it remained the most bitterly disappointing moment in Ken Miles racing career. Having already won at Daytona and Sebring that year, Le Mans was to be the crowning achievement for Miles in motorsport. Alas it was not to be.