Ford snubs V8 fans

Claims it doesn’t need racing to sell Falcons

BRUCE NEWTON

IT MIGHT be the reigning Bathurst champion, but Ford Australia has ditched its commitment to V8 Supercars in a move that doesn’t just leave its top team high and dry, it’s a two-finger salute to the fans and heroes that helped build the brand Down Under.

Ford left its factory team, Ford Performance Racing, to reveal the news publically, while Ford Australia MD Bob Graziano hospital-passed the official response to marketing manager David Katic.

Ford says V8 Supercar racing is still relevant and praises factorybacked FPR for its Bathurst wins the last two years, but says it has diverted the racing budget to “transforming the business”.

That means marketing a growing line-up of imported road cars to private buyers and improving what it calls the “customer experience”.

“All I ask is that people understand this is not about cost saving,” Katic said. “It is about investing it in areas that we think consumers will value as well.”

But the agenda seems more complex than that. The saving couldn’t be more than a couple of million dollars a year in an overall marketing budget said to be nearly $50 million. And when Ford dealers backed a scheme to sponsor FPR themselves, Ford head office opposed it.

Holden, which closes its factory in late 2017, undoubtedly ng faces a similar tug of war for financial resources. But its commitment to motor sport has been more consistent, committed and successful than Ford.

It’s unlikely Ford’s pull-out will have any bearing on the decision-making of rival brands to stay, leave, or enter the sport.

The incumbents are, however, unhappy that Ford is gone.

“From our point of view, we are disappointed because we have enjoyed the rivalry with those guys over the years,” Holden motor sport boss Simon McNamara said. “It [racing] has to be right and their business is going in a different direction.

“We enjoyed the battle and we will enjoy it up until the end.” ecision-e appy rom sappointed njoyed uys ra for your business, usiness i ection.

Nissan Australia boss Richard Emery was blunter: “I don’t understand the specifics of why they have made the call now. I think they could have very easily – without breaking the bank – gone through to the end of 2016 and decided what their business looked like then.”

As one last hurrah, Ford helped pay the cost of homologating the FG-X Falcon race car. Five will be expected on the grid this year.

At least hardy Blue Oval fans will have a few heroes to cheer on for another year. fan heroe

Ford’s

in-n-out WHILE Fords have been prevalent in Australian motor sport, the factory itself has dipped in and out.

Its official campaign began in 1962, with the XL Falcon winning the Armstrong 500 at Phillip Island. Ford also won the following year with a Cortina GT when the rac e moved to Bathurst. The Falcon GT’s f irst win was in 1967.

A golden era with Allan Moffat saw three Bathurst wins in four years up to 1973 for the mighty Falcon GT-HO and XA Hardtop, but then Ford inexplicably withdrew and didn’t return until 1999 with Gibson Motorsport.

FPR was started in 2003 by Ford’s special vehicles partner Prodrive.

“This is not about cost [but] investing in areas we think customers will value” DAVID KATIC, FORD AUSTRALIA