CAMPBELLFIELD, Victoria, Australia — official release — Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images AsiaPac photo —
Ford Australia has confirmed it is pulling out of V8 Supercar racing following the end of the 2015 season.
It will have a reduced commercial arrangement next season with the team currently known as Ford Performance Racing (FPR), but will cease all involvement beyond that.
The blue oval advised stakeholders of its withdrawal from Australia’s number one motor racing category at 3 p.m. local time today. It did not issue a public statement.
Prodrive Racing (Australia) (PRA) has raced under the FPR guise since the team’s inception in 2003, acting as Ford Australia’s primary manufacturer team throughout this period.
“Ford Australia’s decision to not extend its commercial relationship with our team beyond the end of next season is extremely disappointing for our large and loyal fan base, but as a business this decision now allows us to concentrate on our long-term future,” said PRA Chief Executive Officer Tim Edwards. “We have enjoyed a highly-successful relationship with Ford Australia with just shy of 50 race wins, 150 podiums and the last two Bathurst 1000 crowns together. This on track success, along with the engineering and commercial strength that underpins our racing activities, provides us with a very viable business and a strong platform for our future in the sport.
“We will run the new FG X Falcon next season as planned with support from Ford, and we’ll possibly campaign the car in 2016 ahead of the major regulation changes coming from 2017. Now that we know where we stand we can further develop other opportunities. We have a range of options, some existing and some that were awaiting this decision, so we can now begin to explore these further.”
“Whatever happens, I know our loyal fans will support our team whatever direction we take.”
Team owner Rod Nash also expressed his opinion.
“When [fellow co-owner] Rusty French and I purchased the team two years ago we did so because we saw a strong and diverse business, filled with vibrant people and all with a desire to succeed,” Nash said. “That hasn’t changed today and nor will it based on the decision of one of our commercial partners. We have a broad revenue base and this decision does not weaken the viability of our business.
“Our team of people have been working tirelessly, with support from V8 Supercars, to ensure a blue presence in our sport so while we don’t agree with today’s decision, we have no choice but to accept it. While I sympathise with the legions of Ford fans, they are also fans of our team and our drivers, so whatever direction we take we firmly believe that support will continue.”
The Ford withdrawal is indefinite and has been sheeted home to the company’s desire to allocate its limited marketing funds to its expanding product lineup and an improved customer experience. Ford will shut its Australian manufacturing plants no later than October 2016 and kill off the Falcon, which was launched last week in farewell FG X spec.
FPR has been in negotiation with Ford over a renewal for months. FPR drivers Mark Winterbottom and Chaz Mostert will still race FG X Falcons in 2015, as will Marcos Ambrose for the new DJR Team Penske entity.
“We are very aware of what some people will think but all I ask is that people understand this is not about cost saving, this is about investing in areas that we think consumers will value as well,” Ford Australia marketing chief David Katic said in an interview with motoring.com.au. “We have tangible proof of those investments; it’s not just saving money and that’s it. It’s new products, customer experience, etcetera. We understand the passion but we think we need to make some of these difficult decisions – and they are difficult.”
Katic played down any chance the 2017 Gen2 regulations – that will allow engines other than V8s and bodyshapes other than sedans into the category – would tempt Ford to return soon.
Ford has been an integral part of the history of Australian touring car and V8 Supercars racing, winning 23 drivers’ championships across the two categories, the last via James Courtney and Dick Johnson Racing in 2010. It has also won the Bathurst endurance classic 19 times, including the last two years in succession via FPR.
CREDIT: V8 Supercars and Prodrive Racing Australia