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Goodyear ’66: the tire story behind the Le Mans ’66 movie

Opening in theaters across Europe in November, Le Mans ’66 tells the tale of the legendary duel between Ford and Ferrari. Played out during that year’s iconic French endurance challenge, one of the key elements of the race was the pivotal role played by Goodyear tires, which carried Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon to victory.

When Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon drove to victory in the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans, Ford wasn’t the only American company making its mark on the world stage. The famous black GT40 Mark II was running on Goodyear tires – even if it had started the race on rubber from the company’s big rival in the so-called tire wars, Firestone.

“McLaren and Amon’s victory sealed a podium sweep for Goodyear and was our second straight triumph at Le Mans,” explains Mike Rytokoski, Vice-President, Chief Marketing Officer Europe for Goodyear. “Goodyear is particularly proud to have played such a key role in this historic event in motorsports. We’re glad to honor this heritage with a comprehensive association campaign with the Le Mans ‘66 film.”


The Film

Academy Award®-winners Matt Damon and Christian Bale star in Le Mans ‘66, the remarkable true story of the visionary American car designer Carroll Shelby (Damon) and the fearless British driver Ken Miles (Bale), who together battled the laws of physics and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford Motor Company and take on the dominating race cars of Enzo Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 1966.


The Race

The 1966 24 hours of Le Mans started in damp conditions and it quickly became apparent that they suited the Goodyears better than the Firestones. Two of the Shelby American racing team cars participating – the #1 of Ken Miles/Denny Hulme and the #3 of Dan Gurney/Jerry Grant – were having no issues with their Goodyear tires, but the Firestone-shod McLaren was losing chunks of tread on the Mulsanne straight at more than 210mph.

When he pitted to hand over to Amon, he sought out the Firestone representative and negotiated a switch to Goodyears.

As the end of the race rolled around the next day, the surviving #2, #1 and #5 Fords – the latter being the Holman & Moody car of Ronnie Bucknum and Dick Hutcherson – lined up for a staged finish. The manufactured dead-heat between the two Shelby machines continues to be debated to this day, but history records that McLaren and Amon were given the win based on starting further back and therefore having travelled a greater distance in the same time. But for the early switch to Goodyears, they wouldn’t even have been in contention.


Goodyear Racing

In subsequent years, Goodyear would amass a total of 14 wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and become a racing powerhouse with 368 Formula One Grand Prix wins - a record that stands unbeaten.

For the 2019-20 season, Goodyear has returned to international sports car racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship. In 2020, the company will race again at Le Mans in the LMP2 category.

“The story behind the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1966 perfectly captures Goodyear’s spirit of passion, performance and innovation”, said “Mike Rytokoski, Vice-President, Chief Marketing Officer Europe for Goodyear. “It’s with this same spirit that we decided earlier this year to become once again a tire supplier for the FIA World Endurance Championship. We are looking forward to be on the grid again in Le Mans next year.”

About Goodyear

Goodyear is one of the world's largest tire companies. It employs about 74,000 people and manufactures its products in 57 facilities in 23 countries around the world. Its two Innovation Centers in Akron, Ohio, and Colmar-Berg, Luxembourg, strive to develop state-of-the-art products and services that set the technology and performance standard for the industry. For more information about Goodyear and its products, go to www.goodyear.com/corporate.