Don’t fear the reaper

Meet the bloke who helped FPV and reckons we’ll thank him for it Mee kill than

DAMION SMY

THE head of Ford Performance globally didn’t go to Bathurst, even though he was in Australia a few days before The Great Race.

In fact he doesn’t seem to know much about it, despite his brand being part of the race’s folklore, including wins for FPR in 2013 and 2014. The company has turned its back on V8 Supercars and won’t be represented in Australian motorsport in any offi cial form in 2016.

Instead, Ford is throwing everything into the Le Mans 24 Hours, with the Ford GT that, while aping the GT40 that won the race four times in the 1960s, was penned by Aussie Todd Willing. That car is the war-cry for Ford Performance, the ‘One Ford’ version of a global racing shed from a company that’s been winning races since 1901.

Ford Performance chief engineer Jamal Hameedi is here Perf day f kno b Australi for Instead wit cr F she winn Per J to celebrate a collaboration with Carbon Revolution, the Geelongbased company making one-piece carbonfi bre wheels for the Mustang Shelby GT350R, a car not scheduled for local sale. In fact, Ford Performance has announced a 12-car plan, but so far only one – the Focus RS – is locked in for Oz.

That’s set to change if Hameedi gets his way. “If you think about it, on the internet, the rationality of performance... Australians are reading English and German performance stories. The regional barriers are breaking down.

Certainly, if we offer a car in one region, you end up at a dinner next to a guy saying, ‘Why isn’t that car coming here?’,” Hameedi says, having a dig at yours truly, who’d done just that.

Sitting in a Port Melbourne pub, Hameedi explains that Ford Performance encompasses everything from the Fiesta ST

upwards: “We’ve combined Team RS in Europe, SVT in North America, FPV in Australia, Ford Racing and Ford Performance Parts all into one global brand called Ford Performance.”

He asks why Australians drive utes as opposed to pick-ups like the hugely popular Ford Ranger.

We point out that Ford invented the ute in Geelong, and that he needs to drive over Lewis Bandt Bridge, named after the Ford Australia engineer who created it.

Hameedi is not completely ignorant of local tastes, though. “I know that FPV, with Falcons, has a pretty long history and certainly we’ve seen some of our most high-performance V8s in those Falcons here. From what I know, you guys like RWD and highperformance V8s,” he says.

Hameedi is well dressed in a light-grey suit, but his passion and love of engineering and off-road racing – especially the Baja 1000 in Mexico – outshine the corporate attire. He says the V8 engine will always have a place in the

FORD PERFORMANCE ENCOMPASSES EVERYTHING FROM THE FIESTA ST UPWARDS

ONE FORD’S AUSTRALIAN WHEELS

THE new Mustang Shelby GT350R isn’t scheduled for Australia, even though its headline carbonfi bre wheels are made here.

Hameedi says Ford has been working for about two-and-a-half years with Geelong-based Carbon Revolution to become an OEM supplier. Ford regards a wheel as an ‘inverted delta’ part because it’s a safety-critical component, meaning Carbon Revolution clearly knows its stuff.

As for the GT supercar, Ford hasn’t confi rmed if its carbonfi bre wheels will be made here, but Hameedi admitted, “Yeah, it would make sense.” h sen sn t nse.”

Mustang, and it isn’t about to be pensioned off.

He’s also a fan of rear-wheel drive and manual gearboxes, despite the latter’s uncertain future. “I think the Miata [Mazda MX-5] is going to be the last stand,” he says. “I drove one for two years, and I could not shift that thing under 6500rpm. There’s something about conquering and mastering a car, and being able to work your way up to that sweet zone without killing yourself … that journey may take many years; it’s kind of like having a wife – you learn how to live with them.

“A Fiesta ST is a perfect example of that. It’s a front-wheel-drive car and on paper it should be a very sterile drive. Yet you go around a corner and you can get the car to rotate fairly easily and it starts engaging you, and you start interacting with the car. The amount of cars now that that’s the case is dwindling quickly.”

That bodes well for the Focus RS when it hits showrooms in mid-2016, and for a whole list of performance parts for the new Mustang when it lands here.

That’s what Ford Performance is offering – hard-core models and a full catalogue of customisation and go-fast parts.

Don’t expect a Nurburgring lap time to be plastered all over Focus RS ads, though, because Hameedi won’t allow it.

“Marketing turned the Nurburgring from an excellent development track into a marketing debacle,” he says.

“And now you’ve got a lot of manufacturers who want to be considered part of the club e hough, ow eting ring ment g w turers dered doing all kinds of crazy things to advertise, in a totally uncontrolled environment. To me it’s not a value-add; the customer’s not getting a better car for that.”

What he wants to deliver is a driver’s car; an enthusiast’s muse.

“That’s what was so crazy about the way we were organised before.

An enthusiast would watch a race on Sunday and it had maybe a Ford Racing banner, and they couldn’t go and buy a car with a Ford Racing banner – there wasn’t that connection to a road car. Now Ford Racing is Ford Performance and there’s a connection.” y

FORD PERFORMANCE, NOT FPV

THE demise of the similarly named Ford Performance Vehicles in Australia would have happened regardless of the state of local production; it was another victim of ‘One Ford’ as the company rationalises almost every aspect of its operations.

Hameedi said choosing a single brand name that works globally was tough: “This was an extremely emotional debate because you have these hallowed brands that have been making fantastic products, and there were a lot of different opinions on it.”

He said a study was completed to come up with a name that had global appeal. “That was the only way that we got everyone to buy y that we got everyone to buy into it, because everyone’s hallowed brand was thrown into the hat.”

And what came out was Ford Performance.