Mustang for V8 Supercars?
26 May 2013
Ford could have a future racing the iconic Mustang in the V8 Supercars championship if a proposal allowing two-door coupes to go head-to-head with the current four-door sedans gains support.
The idea, pitched by V8 Supercars board member and Red Bull Racing Australia and Triple Eight Race Engineering owner Roland Dane in a strategy paper late last year, has gained added impetus following Ford’s announcement that it will cease local manufacturing in October 2016 and kill off the iconic Falcon nameplate.
“The days of four-door medium and large saloons being main players in the market place have gone,” Dane told motoring.com.au. “So that’s what it [the paper] is really about.”
It is understood Dane’s proposal received only limited attention from the board at the time he presented it because of the amount of issues that have beset the category of late, culminating in the recent departure of CEO David Malone and his replacement with former TV executive James Warburton.
“Now we have got some stability back in there I am hoping it will get looked at properly,” said Dane. “But it has very much been in my mind for a long time.”
Dane’s thought process isn’t driven by the plight of Ford specifically, but of the decline of the global four-door sedan market and the end of the Australian automotive industry's ability to build stand-alone models.
The Falcon is going and the Holden Commodore VF will be replaced by a global model in 2017, most likely a front-wheel drive rival for the Toyota Camry and Aurion.
“People’s tastes and needs and whatever are changing,” Dane said. “But on the other hand there will always be the niche cars so we have to make ourselves open and flexible.
“I am saying have an open mind about two-door bodyshells. It is all about aspiration. Aspirational vehicles in the Australian market in the 1970s were actually two-door vehicles. Then they became derivatives of locally produced four-door Fords and Holdens.
“Now times are changing again. We have to have an open mind as to whether we go back to those two-door vehicles.”
Ford has already confirmed the next generation of its iconic Mustang, due for reveal in 2014, will be built in right-hand drive. Ford Australia has yet to say if it will be sold here. Dane argues it would be a logical car to race, especially now that V8 Supercars has adopted the ‘one size fits all’ Car of the Future chassis – another initiative he championed.
“If they wanted to race the Mustang here on the platform we have got today it would be easy to do,” he said.
Ford’s racing future beyond this year is unclear. Its contract with Ford Performance Racing is up for renewal. Over the last few seasons its V8 Supercars presence has dwindled to just six cars.
If his proposal is adopted Dane suggests Betty Klimenko’s Erebus Motorsport could race an E-class coupe if Mercedes-Benz made that request, or the Kelly brothers could move to a Skyline from the Altima.
Falcon’s death notice casts doubt over Ford race program
24 May 2013
The news that Ford will stop making cars in Australia in 2016 raises a big question over the Blue Oval’s future in V8 Supercar racing.
It had been a week to reflect on and contemplate three of the world’s biggest motor races this weekend – the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 – and that Australia is so regularly represented in each of them now – and already had great success on the streets of Monte Carlo.
Then came the news that Ford will stop making cars in Australia in 2016, and the question that raises is the Blue Oval’s future in V8 Supercar racing.
Through this author’s eyes it is hard to see the factory giving any support beyond this year to the Falcon it is going to kill off.
Ford Performance Racing owners Rod Nash and Rusty French, who bought out David Richards’ Prodrive last summer but hold a contract with the factory expiring at the end of this year, appear to hold a forlorn hope that Ford may still find reason to be represented on the country’s racetracks.
Nash reckoned yesterday’s news “by no means signals an end to Ford in Australia, nor to the close relationship we have with the company”.
“We are proud to fly the Ford flag and look forward to doing so for years to come,” he said.
But how can Ford justify backing a race program after it lost $141 million in Australia last year, $600 million over the past five years, and is selling about 13 per cent the number of Falcons it did in the mid-1990s – when the V8 formula had been introduced but before it was branded V8 Supercars – while the Australian car market has grown 25 per cent in that time.
When sales have plummeted so steeply over the past 18 years, while Ford has been involved in what until this year was a straight fight with Holden’s Commodore, why would they improve in the coming years as the Falcon is phased out of production? Surely it is more likely those sales will shrink further, perhaps even faster.
Ford’s decision to stop building cars in Australian in 2016 was no surprise to anyone with the remotest attention on the situation, although the timing of the announcement was something of a shock.
Ford Australia chief Bob Graziano did not make any friends with the announcement and was vague on the sporting aspect, admittedly a lesser priority in the big scheme of things.
“No decision has been made on the motorsport program yet and we will work with our motorsport teams and work through that over the next three years,” Graziano said.
There are only six Falcons in the 28 “Car of the Future” field this year. All were built by FPR, which campaigns four of them, with the other two entered by the continually financially-embattled **** Johnson Racing.
Fifteen Australian touring car/V8 Supercar championships and 12 Bathurst 1000s have been won by Falcons, but none of them FPR Falcons.
DJR miraculously produced a national title in 2010, and remains an iconic name in the sport, but it is perennially on “life support” these days.
Long-time Ford team Stone Brothers Racing this year has been recast as Erebus Motorsport and is fielding three AMG Mercedes-Benz E63s, while Nissan has come in with four Altimas – still yet to be released as a road car in Oz.