Ford Performance Racing co-owner Rusty French is eyeing a test in Mark Winterbottom’s V8 Supercars Championship-leading Falcon after sampling the team’s Dunlop Series car at Winton.
The 71-year-old completed a pair of five-lap runs in Cameron Waters’ Enzed-backed Dunlop Series Ford in the closing stages of Monday’s 23-car V8 Supercars Championship/Dunlop Series test at the Victorian venue on Monday.
Although still a regular driver in the Touring Car Masters and at a variety of historic events, the hit-out marked French’s first taste of a contemporary touring car in 30-years.
“I’d never driven a V8 Supercar so I thought I’d have a bit of a drive and see how hard the guys are really working,” French told Speedcafe.com.
“It was very, very nice to drive. I hadn’t driven a (contemporary) touring car since the Group C days in 1984 and they’ve changed a lot since then.
“Nothing is easy but I tell you what when you’re jumping out of some of the stuff that I drive into one of those it really is a nice car!
“I was pretty careful with it but I enjoyed having a bit of a drag down the main straight with Michael Caruso in the Nissan.
“Cam obviously has the car set-up well so it was just nice to get in a car that you can jump in and drive.
“The best thing about it was just the ease of having the Motec shift lights on the dash and the whole layout of the inside of the car.
“The throttle response is great. I was warned that you’ve got to be careful with it getting a bit taily on the throttle and I was treating it with a lot of respect.
“It was all a learning experience but I really enjoyed it.
“Tim (Edwards, team principal) had said I’ll let you drive one of the DVS cars first and then maybe next time out you might jump into Frosty’s car,” he added.
French teamed with Rod Nash to buy FPR over the 2012/13 off-season as former owner Prodrive moved to exit the championship.
While continuing to operate his Skye Sands mining operation among other business interests, French travels to each V8 Supercars event overseeing the squad’s operations.
“I like to be at all the events to support the crew and the drivers and keep the team moral high,” he said.
“If you purchase a company and the existing staff are doing a good job you leave them alone, (but) we have our regular board meetings just to make sure everything is running as we want it.
“The purpose of me buying into the team was to give me an interest in motorsport beyond the time when I probably stop driving.”
In the meantime, French’s driving exploits – which have included an Australian GT Championship title (1983) and a best of sixth in the Bathurst 1000 (1984) – show little sign of slowing down.
He currently campaigns a Porsche 911 in Class B of the Touring Car Masters and is looking to upgrade to a Ford Mustang for next season.
“We’ve been looking at that (a Mustang) for a while and we’ve just imported a shell in from America,” he said.
“I always think that if you’re going to do something you need to do it properly and I’d really love an FPR-prepared Mustang in that category.
“But for me to do a Mustang without interfering with the day-to-day running of the V8 team, we’d have to sub-contract it out.
“We’ve spoken about doing that so hopefully we can get it up and going next year.”
French’s extensive fleet of historic vehicles also includes three Porsche 935s, three De Tomaso Panteras and a pair of ex-Winston Cup NASCARs that are all kept in race-ready condition.
“I thoroughly enjoy the sport,” he said.
“I don’t play golf or tennis and I don’t want to buy a set of bowling gear or anything like that, so I get to as many (racing) events as I can.
“It’s really just a matter of what you can fit in with the V8 rounds because some of them clash.
“The priority is obviously FPR so whatever I do race wise is still serious, but secondary to the main focus.”