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It's official: the Ford GT is entering LeMans in 2016

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The worst-kept secret in auto racing is a secret no longer: Ford just unveiled its LeMans-spec race version of the Ford GT at LeMans today, where the 24 Hours of LeMans is running this weekend. The car isn't ready for this year's race, but it will be next year, running in the LM GTE-Pro category.

Rumors of Ford's interest in participating in LeMans predate the announcement of the new GT itself. In fact, the car likely owes its existence to the race: next year marks the 50th anniversary of the company's legendary 1-2-3 win at LeMans in 1966 — a screw-you to Ferrari, which had rebuffed an acquisition attempt — and Bill Ford seems intent on commemorating that mark in style.

The racer isn't just for LeMans, though — it'll be running both the FIA WEC and TUSCC schedules in 2016, starting with the Rolex 24 at Daytona next January. Under the hood is a modified version of the 3.5-liter EcoBoost six that powers the road-going GT.

Speaking of the road-going version, this might be one of the very few cases where the street car arguably looks better than the racer — the enormous, pan-shaped diffuser is a little distracting, and the headlights don't have the sci-fi look and feel of the production model. Still, it's a beautiful machine.