'Ford v Ferrari' won 2 Oscars for film editing and sound editing. Here's the real story behind the movie and how Ford changed racing history.

  • Winning two Academy Awards this year, the film 'Ford v Ferrari' tells the story of the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race.
  • While the movie covers the race's underlying rivalry between Ford Motor Company and Ferrari, its true focus is on the two racing legends who helped develop Ford's program.
  • We highlight the real story of 'Ford v Ferrari' with some of the details that didn't make it to the big screen.
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

Narrator: In 1966, Ford Motor Company took on the biggest challenge it ever had taken before. The automaker's racing team attempted to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world's most prestigious automobile race. The historic race and events leading up to it are the subject of 20th Century Fox's new movie "Ford v Ferrari" starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale. ​While the movie is packed with plenty of drama, action, and a few tears​, here's the true story of how Ford changed racing history." - Warning spoilers ahead.

The story begins three years earlier, in 1963. In an attempt to remedy his company's shortcomings against General Motors in the salesroom and on the track, Henry Ford II put together a deal to buy out Ferrari, who at the time owned the most dominant team in racing. His intent was both racing alongside the iconic Italian brand and spreading Ford's influence on a more global scale. However, when the deal went ​very ​sour...

Lee Iacocca: Mr. Ford, Ferrari has a message for you, sir.

Henry Ford II: What did he say?

Lee: He said Ford makes ugly little cars and ugly factories. And he called you fat, sir.

Narrator: It ignited one of the most famous rivalries in motorsports history. Ford decided there was only one place to ​truly g​et back at Ferrari - on the race track. Ford's race of choice? The 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world's most acclaimed endurance race that held more clout internationally than any other motorsport competition. The Detroit automaker would proceed to make a multi-million-dollar investment into its Le Mans program. However, Ford wouldn't only fare poorly at the 1964 Le Mans, but for the entire year overall, as not a single Ford car finished a race in the entire 1964 season. Growing more and more frustrated, Ford finally took the program to Carroll Shelby, owner of Shelby American Inc. and a former Le Mans winner himself, played in the film by Matt Damon.

Ford brought to Shelby its GT40 race car that its engineers had developed with the help of racing company Lola Cars. After the car's failures at multiple races in recent years, Ford gave Shelby one goal: win.

Henry Ford II: We know how to do more than push paper. Go ahead, Carroll, go to war.

Narrator: Integral to the GT's development would be Shelby team member Ken Miles, played in the film by Christian Bale. Miles was an English driver and mechanical engineer who had already played a major part in the development and success of Shelby's AC Cobra race cars. Miles helped the Shelby team address many of the Ford car's issues and did extensive testing on it. But after ​Ford chose to change out the car's engine at the last second before the 1965 24 Hours Le Mans, all of its GT40s failed to finish the race. Ferrari would go on to win, making it the brand's fifth Le Mans victory in a row.

As Ford's desire to take Ferrari down a peg grew, so did Shelby's commitment to the GT. The team and Miles continued their work, boosting the car's horsepower using some very "primitive" methods. As shown in one particularly memorable scene from the film, the team attached duct tape and cotton yarn to the car to assess the direction of airflow while the car was in motion. They discovered there were issues with the air ducting, and a few simple fixes helped add 76 horsepower to the car. They also proceeded to add lighter magnesium wheels, grippier tires, and better brakes.

As the 1966 racing season began, Ford's newly improved GT40 would win both the famous 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring endurance races, both times with Miles behind the wheel. Suddenly the upcoming Le Mans held more significance than a potential victory for Ford over Ferrari. With his wins at Daytona and Sebring, a victory for Ken Miles at Le Mans would give the driver the triple crown, something that had never been accomplished in racing history.

Ford would enter eight cars into the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans, with three of them managed by Carroll Shelby: one driven by Ken Miles and New Zealander Denny Hulme, the second team featuring American drivers Dan Gurney and Jerry Grant, and the third car piloted by New Zealand racers Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon. Meanwhile, Ferrari entered only two cars in the race, confident that after winning the past five races, a sixth victory was imminent.

In very anticlimactic fashion, Ferrari's two cars would fail to finish the race, with both being declared unable to continue by Lap 227. By the race's halfway point, it was clear that a Ford car would be taking home the trophy. But it was the race's end that would make the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans one of the most controversial finishes in racing history.

As the final lap neared, three of Ford's car were at the front, with the lead two driven by Miles followed by McLaren. Miles had been driving record-setting laps, and the historic triple crown win for him was clear in sight. However, Ford's public relations team had other plans, opting for a literal "photo finish". Ford requested that Miles slow down and finish side by side with McLaren, for a picture that would truly emphasize the company's historic dominance at that year's race. After brief objection from Miles, he finally agreed to the decision, believing it would result in a tie for the entire Ford team.

But this wasn't the case as Miles and McLaren finished the race alongside one another. Instead of declaring the race a tie, Le Mans' organizers stated that the car that had covered the most amount of ground was the winner. Technically McLaren and Amon's GT40 had been lined up a mere 8 meters behind Miles' car at the start of the race. ​Despite being the fastest driver, Miles had lost. The controversial decision left Miles robbed of what would have been a historic victory and lifetime achievement. While the driver was left devastated by his unnecessary loss, Ford celebrated its win for American racing...and Big Money.

Despite his devastation, Miles didn't waste any time returning to the track, beginning work on Ford's newly developed J-Car in preparation for the 1967 season. However, just one month after Le Mans while testing the car at the Riverside course, Miles was killed in a horrific crash.

Thanks to the contributions of Miles and Shelby, Ford would go on to win the 1967, 1968, and 1969 Le Mans races and establish itself as a dominating force in the world of motorsports. However, Miles would remain relatively unheard of outside the racing community. Fortunately, his legacy has been brought to the public's attention with "Ford v. Ferrari". Although the film tells a story as much about tragedy as it is about triumph, it highlights the accomplishments of two men, one relatively unknown, who helped change the course of racing history in America.

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