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After 46 years, Ford returns to Le Mans

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Ford Motor Company will return to Le Mans racing after a hiatus of 46 years.

The Dearborn automaker will enter a racing version of its new GT Supercar in the grueling endurance race.

"This vehicle, really from the very beginning, was born to race," said Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford at a press conference held on the grounds of the famous circuit in France. 

Ford, the great-grandson of Henry Ford, said watching the 1966 Le Mans - when Ford cars placed first, second and third - was one of the most exciting memories he has from childhood.

The news has implications beyond racing, according to Henry Ford, III.

He's the great, great-grandson of Henry Ford. 

The younger Ford says the GT uses ground-breaking technologies and materials, from extensive use of carbon fiber and aluminum, to a high-performance Ecoboost engine.

"What we've learned in pulling this car together - and what we will continue to learn by racing it on racetracks like Le Mans - we can then implement across our entire vehicle lineup," Ford told Michigan Radio.

The automaker hasn't yet chosen its drivers for the 2016 Le Mans, but says applicants are lining up already.

Ford Motor Company's founder, Henry Ford (the first), was able to acquire the financial backing he needed to start the company by winning a race in 1901.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.