V8 Supercars Hall of Famer John Bowe believes that Ford would be ‘crazy’ to cut its involvement in the category at the end of the season.
The Blue Oval currently provides financial support to just one team, its factory outfit Ford Performance Racing, under a three-year contract that concludes ahead of 2014.
Ford confirmed last month that it will cease manufacturing cars in Australia in October 2016, retiring the 56-year-old Falcon nameplate in the process.
While much speculation has centered on which model Ford could race after the death of the Falcon, the company is yet to decide on the future of its Australian racing efforts beyond this year.
Ford Australia president Bob Graziano emphasised to V8 Supercars’ own website last week that the axe will fall on the racing budget if the hard numbers don’t add up for the company.
Bowe, who won two Bathurst 1000s and an Australian Touring Car Championship behind the wheel of Ford products, warns that continuing a tradition of ducking in and out of motorsport commitments could do grave damage to its following in Australia at a time when it needs loyalty the most.
“Honestly I think Ford would be absolutely crazy to walk away from it (V8 Supercars),” Bowe told Speedcafe.com.
“Touring car racing and V8 Supercars has been part of Ford lovers’ culture in this country for generations and it’s part of Ford’s worldwide culture.
“It has been a bit on and off in various years and the problem is that they don’t know when to stop and when to start. They should stay, and if they don’t they’ll leave at their own peril.
“Even though they won’t manufacturer in Australia anymore, which you can understand, they’ll still have a very large presence in the marketplace.
“They could potentially have a bigger standing in the market place (post 2016), but they’ll need people to still like to the brand, and stopping racing will put a lot of people off.”
Although of the belief that continuing with FPR is a must, Bowe stresses that Ford needs to find a way to financially back Dick Johnson Racing, having provided only materials support in recent seasons.
“Leaving Dick Johnson to his own devices was a very, very bad decision,” said Bowe, who drove for DJR between 1988 and 1998, but currently has no formal ties to the team.
“The fact is, no drivers in the history of this country have ever been raised to anything like the status that Dick Johnson and Peter Brock earned.
“We’ve had champions since, and I was one of them once, but I’m not Dick Johnson or Peter Brock.
“A manufacturer like Ford could get a massive amount out of DJR but they need the right people there to leverage it. That’s the key to it.”
Before joining DJR and Ford, the Bowe enjoyed brief stints with the Volvo and Nissan factory teams.
Co-incidentally, the latter rejoined the championship under the Car of the Future regulations this year, while the former is also expected to be represented in 2014 under a yet-to-be-confirmed deal with Garry Rogers Motorsport.
“I am totally in favour of having more manufacturers involved and I think Volvo is (a) very appropriate (fit for the category),” said Bowe of a potential fifth player for 2014.
“It’s so easy for manufacturers to get involved now and there is no better image builder than motorsport to shine your brand and create excitement and pride among dealers and customers.”
Bowe currently drives a Ford Mustang in the Touring Car Masters, leading the points standings in his bid for a third consecutive title ahead of Round 3 at Hidden Valley this weekend.