'Ford v Ferrari': Did All 3 Cars Cross the Finish Line at the Same Time at Le Mans '66?

That ending feels almost too strange to be real

(This post contains SPOILERS for “Ford v Ferrari,” starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale.)

A good chunk of James Mangold’s “Ford v Ferrari” is devoted to a diligent recreation of the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race, and it all leads to a climax that, if you don’t know anything about it, feels almost too strange to be real. Though, admittedly, it is fitting as the conclusion of a story that’s all about corporate meddling.

The real life Le Mans ’66 ended with a historic finish: Ford trounced the frontrunner Ferrari as all three Ford cars crossed the finish line in a dead heat. But there’s some additional drama in the “Ford v Ferrari” portrayal. In the film’s telling, once it becomes clear Ford will win, Ford executives, including Henry Ford II, realize that having all of its cars finish at the same time would make an excellent PR stunt — so they instruct driver Ken Miles (Bale) to slow down his pace to let the other two cars catch up.

The move achieves the desired photo opp, but Miles loses the championship he deserved on a technicality. Le Mans rules hold that in the event of a dead heat finish, the car that drove the furthest distance is the official winner regardless of overall standings in the race. And since the Ford car driven by Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon started the race eight meters (roughly 60 feet) behind Miles (who was in the pole position), Miles is declared the second place driver.

But how close does the film’s depiction of Le Mans ’66 match with the real life events? Pretty close, as it turns out. Believe it or not, “Ford v Ferrari” doesn’t really take very many dramatic liberties. That glorious photo op really happened, and Miles really did lose his first place ranking on that frustrating technicality.

It’s all spelled out in the documentary “8 Meters: Triumph, Tragedy and a Photo Finish at Le Mans,” which you can watch above. In it, you can even hear the real audio from the day of the race (around the 17:15 mark) of the announcer explaining to the crowd what had just happened. “8 Meters” shows that there was genuine confusion among the drivers as to who actually won the race. And when Miles figured out what happened, he was devastated.

“I think we’ve been f—ed,” Miles is quoted in the documentary telling his crew chief.

Carroll Shelby, who is played by Damon in “Ford v Ferrari,” also said he wished he never agreed to the dead heat.

“I felt wonderful about us winning one, two and three in ’66, but Ken Miles, we made a horrible decision in seeing the three cars come over exactly together. It was good politically for Ford, and I worked for Ford. And I’m not going to go against Henry Ford,” Shelby said.

Mangold’s film however suggests that Ford executive Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas) was the real villain and conspired to stage the photo finish, even though he knew it would mean Miles would lose. Throughout “Ford v Ferrari” he’s shown with a grudge against Miles and even goes over Shelby’s head with orders for the racers to drive more conservatively.

But Beebe has been fairly vilified in real life, too. In “8 Meters,” it’s explained that Beebe was frustrated that Miles, McLaren and Amon were going above the speed the team had determined. In previous races, Ford cars crashed, exploded or failed to finish, so the priority was to keep both car and driver safe. And according to the biography “Go Like Hell,” Beebe even received a handwritten note from Ford II that said, “You better win.” The stakes were high.

Of course, the race didn’t go according to plan. We see in the movie that Miles was forced to pit after just one lap because his door wouldn’t close properly. That really happened too. McLaren and Amon’s car then had tire problems, and McLaren famously shouted to Amon, “go like hell” and surpass the agreed-upon pace.

According to “8 Meters,” Ford executives did eventually learn that a dead heat would not be allowed and there could be only one winner, but that was after they gave the order for Miles to slow down. Once the mistake was realized, there was no way to communicate to Miles to speed up.

Had Miles won, he would’ve been the first driver to win the triple crown of Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans in a single year. But Miles died in a car wreck just two months after Le Mans, and history had forgotten his contributions to Ford until recently. Now “Ford v Ferrari” helps to immortalize his legacy.

Paging Oscar Voters: 19 Fact-Based Fall Movies and Biopics, From 'Judy' to 'Bombshell' (Photos)

  • There aren’t a lot of things Hollywood loves more in a film than the retelling of true-to-life events or the onscreen portrayal of real people. For proof, look no further than what the Oscars each year: In the last 10 years, seven Best Actor winners played real people, including Rami Malek for “Bohemian Rhapsody.”


  • “Hustlers” (Sept. 13) 

    STX Entertainment’s glitzy film about the Robin Hood of strippers is inspired by a viral 2016 New York Magazine article. “Hustlers” follows a crew of savvy strip club employees who band together to turn the tables on their wealthy and abusive Wall Street clientele by maxing out their credit cards after they’ve passed out. The film stars Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Cardi B, Lizzo, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart and Julia Stiles.

  • “Judy” (Sept. 27)

    Renée Zellweger plays Judy Garland circa 1968, when “The Wizard of Oz” star arrived in London to perform in sell-out concerts. The film follows Garland as she prepares for the show, battles with management, charms musicians and reminisces with friends and adoring fans. Finn Wittrock, Jessie Buckley and Michael Gambon also star.

  • “The Laundromat” (Sept. 27) 

    Steven Soderbergh’s screwball comedy follows Meryl Streep as a citizen journalist who uncovers a massive conspiracy involving money laundering, bribery, extortion. The film, based on Jake Bernstein’s book, “Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite,” also stars Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas.

  • “The Current War” (Oct. 25) 

    The historical drama — which languished in limbo for nearly two years following The Weinstein Co.’s bankruptcy — tells the story of the cutthroat competition between Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) over whose electrical system would power the new century. Nicholas Hoult also stars as Nikola Tesla.

  • “Lucy in the Sky” (Oct. 4) 

    “Fargo” and “Legion” creator Noah Hawley directed Natalie Portman in “Lucy in the Sky,” loosely based on the story of astronaut Lisa Nowak and her struggle to adjust after returning from space. Nowak, who was romantically involved with fellow astronaut William Oefelein, flew aboard Space Shuttle Discovery in July 2006. The following year she was charged with the attempted kidnapping of U.S. Air Force Cpt. Colleen Shipman, who also had a relationship with Oefelein. Nowak ultimately pleaded guilty to lesser charges and was sentenced to a year probation. “Lucy in the Sky” also stars Jon Hamm, Zazie Beetz and Dan Stevens.

  • “Dolemite Is my Name” (Oct. 25) 

    Eddie Murphy returns to the screen after a three-year hiatus to play a blaxploitation legend whose given name is Rudy Ray Moore. After struggling to break into showbiz, Moore creates the alter-ego Dolemite seeking to star in blaxploitation films. Moore would go on to star in three films as Dolemite, including “Dolemite” from 1975, followed by “The Human Tornado” and “The Return of Dolemite.”

  • “The Irishman” (Nov. 1)

    Martin Scorsese reunites Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in what is one of the fall’s most-anticipated films: a decade-spanning saga of organized crime in post-WWII America that covers Jimmy Hoffa’s (Pacino) rise as the leader of the Teamsters, and Frank Sheeran’s (De Niro) participation in hits for the Bufalino crime family as well as the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano and Bobby Cannavale also star in the Netflix film.

  • “Harriet” (Nov. 1) 

    Cynthia Erivo, who had a breakout 2018 with films “Widows” and “Bad Times at the El Royale,” gets a star turn as American abolitionist and activist Harriet Tubman. The film follows the freedom fighter from her escape from slavery through her subsequent missions to free dozens of slaves in the South during a time of extreme adversity ahead of the Civil War.

  • “The King” (Nov. 1) 

    Timothée Chalamet follows in the footsteps of Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh, to portray one of Shakespeare’s great heroes: Henry V, the 15th-century monarch who navigates the palace politics, chaos and war after his father’s premature death. Chalamet is backed by a great cast that includes Joel Edgerton, Sean Harris, Lily-Rose Depp, Robert Pattinson and Ben Mendelsohn.

  • “Honey Boy” (Nov. 8) 

    “Honey Boy,” written by Shia LaBeouf, is a raw semiautobiographical retelling of the actor’s childhood growing up with an abusive and alcoholic father, played by LaBeouf. The actor wrote the screenplay while in rehab and reconciling with his father and confronting his own mental health issues. Noah Jupe plays a proxy for young Shia, here named Otis, while Lucas Hedges plays him as an adult.

  • “Midway” (Nov. 8) 

    Roland Emmerich’s new action epic retells the clash between the American fleet and the Japanese imperial navy at the Battle of Midway in World War II. The cast includes Ed Skrein, Mandy Moore, Nick Jonas and Patrick Wilson.

  • “Ford v Ferrari” (Nov. 15) 

    In a film that might as well be called “We Want an Oscar,” Matt Damon stars as visionary car designer Carroll Shelby opposite Christian Bale as the fearless British-born driver Kevin Miles. Back in 1966, the two men were hired by Ford to build a revolutionary race car to take on Enzo Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France.

  • “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” (Nov. 22) 

    Tom Hanks plays the indelible Fred Rogers. Nothing else need be said.

  • “The Two Popes” (Nov. 27) 

    Fernando Meirelles (“City of God”) this movie inspired the true story of Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) and his encounter with the future Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce), one of his harshest critics as a cardinal from Argentina.

  • “The Aeronauts” (Dec. 6) 

    “The Theory of Everything” co-stars Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones re-team for another true story, about pioneering hot-air balloon pilot Amelia Wren (Jones) and meteorologist James Glaisher (Redmayne) who set out on an epic balloon journey in the 1860s.

  • “Bombshell” (Dec. 20) 

    Jay Roach’s film tells the story of the sexual harassment scandal from the point of view of the women who challenged the toxic male culture and unseated Fox News founder Roger Ailes. Charlize Theron stars, in a striking resemblance to Megyn Kelly, alongside Nicole Kidman as Gretchen Carlson and Margot Robbie.

  • “Just Mercy” (Dec. 25) 

    Michael B. Jordan stars as real-life author, activist and civil rights defense lawyer Bryan Stevenson as he seeks to free a wrongly convicted death-row inmate, Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx). The film, which also stars Brie Larson, is directed by “Short Term 12” filmmaker Destin Cretton.

  • “1917”  (Dec. 25) 

    Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes based his WWI drama in part on an account from his paternal grandfather about two British soldiers ordered to sneak behind enemy lines to warn a battalion about an ambush during the third Battle of Ypres.

  • “Clemency” (Dec. 27) 

    Chinonye Chukwu’s drama, which premiered in Sundance, is based on the true story of a death-row prison warden (Alfre Woodard) whose job takes its toll as she prepares for the execution of an inmate (Aldis Hodge).

Some of the glitziest, most-anticipated movies of the fall star Hollywood’s biggest stars portraying real people

There aren’t a lot of things Hollywood loves more in a film than the retelling of true-to-life events or the onscreen portrayal of real people. For proof, look no further than what the Oscars each year: In the last 10 years, seven Best Actor winners played real people, including Rami Malek for “Bohemian Rhapsody.”


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