Ongoing uncertainty over Ford’s future in Australian motorsport has stirred strong reaction from the company’s racing legends and fan base ahead of Sunday’s Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.
Ford Australia President, Bob Graziano has yet to respond to rampant speculation that the company will cut its involvement in the championship at the end of the current season.
Ford Performance Racing and DJR Team Penske have both committed to homologating the new FG X Falcon and running the cars in next year’s championship, but may be forced to do so without factory backing.
Penske has already conceded that it will not enjoy factory support for its entry into V8 Supercars, while FPR co-owner Rod Nash told Speedcafe.com at Bathurst that talks remain ongoing for extending the factory team’s Ford association.
“We’ve made it very clear that we feel Ford is a big part of this championship and we urge Ford to be part of it going forward,” he said.
“The tap is not turned off at this point. We’re still all talking and negotiating so we’ll have to see where it ends up.”
The squad has notably increased the presence of ‘Prodrive Racing Australia’ branding on its equipment and promotional material in recent weeks, readying itself for a potential future without a factory deal.
The reaction to speculation that Ford could make a complete exit has come thick and fast from racing royalty including two former V8 Supercars champions, John Bowe and Glenn Seton.
Bowe has remained loyal to the blue oval over several decades with his two Bathurst wins and 1995 championship win achieved in Ford products.
“I know generations of families that are Ford people. They have followed Fords, their grandparents, their parents, their grandchildren – all Ford people,” said Bowe.
“From my point of view it’s sad to see the Falcon, particularly the FPV cars, go, but they make some awesome cars around the world and there is a downsizing so we’re following world trends.
“Holden are doing the same thing but Holden have committed to motorsport and Ford should commit to motorsport as well – it is part of Ford’s DNA.
“We’ve got more brands here than America’s got, so I think to have an involvement with V8 Supercar racing firstly and motorsport in general is good for the Ford brand.”
Glenn Seton won two of Ford’s record 23 Australian Touring Car Championships in 1993 and 1997 and is regarded as one of the brand’s true legends.
“It’s about brand awareness in motorsport and there’s so many supporters out there in motorsport in general in Australia that really do support the Ford brand,” said Seton.
“It’s been great for them and it’s been great for us as a sport to have them a part of it, and hopefully in the future that will carry on because I think that’s beneficial for both.
“The fans put their passion into following teams and following cars and following manufacturers and that is their passion.
“They’re probably more passionate than we are as race drivers to be honest, and it’d be a shame to let them down.”
Penrith motorsport fan Tony Hawton has been to Bathurst every year since 1977 and is one of the first to set up his campsite at Mount Panorama each year, which is covered in Ford paraphernalia.
“Ford means everything to me, mate. Except my own personal family, Ford is the next thing in my life,” said Hawton.
“I drove a 1969 GT Falcon, and the moment I drove it I said, ‘I’ve just got to have a Ford.’ I bought one the following year and I still own it today, so Ford’s through my blood.
“I’m always in my Ford gear, and I just want Ford to get behind us more now that they’ve dropped out a lot and we just want them back in, we want them to support us like we support them.
“For my family, it’s in the young blood as well and we need that to keep going.”
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VIDEO: Drivers and fans unite amid Ford doubts