Martin Bartek, head of the Matech organization that developed the current Ford GT racing car, died earlier this week at the age of 44.
Bartek's Matech Competition initially developed the Ford GT for the FIA GT3 series, in which it triumphed in 2008. He then set his sights on the FIA GT1 series' new world championship era, developing a top-class version of the Ford for an exploratory effort in 2009 prior to the full introduction of the new rules last year.
The Matech Racing team was a frontrunner from the outset, winning the first championship round in Abu Dhabi with Romain Grosjean and Thomas Mutsch. The latter ultimately secured second in the inaugural drivers' championship, with Matech fifth in the teams' standings and leading Ford to third in the manufacturers' trophy.
This year Matech scaled back its activities and no longer fielded its own cars, but continued to support Ford entrants Marc VDS and Belgian Racing.
Series boss Stephane Ratel paid tribute to Bartek, who also represented the GT1 teams on the FIA's GT Commission.
"Martin played a major role in the FIA GT3 European and GT1 World Championships," said Ratel. "We have lost a friend."