Ford Performance Racing principal Tim Edwards reassured his team that it will continue to enjoy support from Ford next season before leading it to victory in the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.
Edwards called an emergency team meeting at 7am on Friday following media reports that the manufacturer is set to cut its involvement with the squad, and the championship, at year’s end.
The Ford firestorm dominated pre-race discussions among media and fans as the manufacturer continues to remain non-committal on its future in the category.
Fans of the Blue Oval have rallied together to send a message to the manufacturer via an online petition that has already attracted more than 10,000 signatures.
FPR and Ford insist they remain in talks over a continuation of their relationship next year, although a decision won’t be made public until the end of the season.
The team announced on Saturday that it will homologate the soon-to-be-released FG X for 2015, having been working on the project for some months with design and parts support from Ford.
“There’s no doubt I was distracted by it all weekend with media and fans and all the rest of it,” Edwards told Speedcafe.com of the Ford situation.
“(But) we grabbed the whole team on Friday morning before any of them had even seen it (the reports).
“We told them what was being written and what was going on.
“They’re all acutely aware of where we’re at in terms of we’re developing the new car, we are running Fords next year (and) we are going to be supported by Ford.
“They already knew, it was just re-confirming what they already knew and that something hadn’t happened that potentially derailed that.”
Young star Chaz Mostert teamed with veteran Paul Morris to score FPR’s second consecutive Bathurst victory on Sunday in sensational circumstances.
A chaotic race ended with a last-lap pass from Mostert – whose car had been crashed early and made a total of 13 pitstops – on an out-of-fuel Red Bull Holden, driven by Jamie Whincup.
The victory was witnessed by Ford Australia president Bob Graziano, who made his first appearance at a V8 Supercars event in 12 months.
Although acknowledging the ideal timing of the success, Edwards predictably downplayed its importance for the future.
“It never hurts but where we end up with our negotiations with Ford, I don’t think it’ll make too much of a difference,” he said.
“We are a competitive team and have been all year so I don’t think our competitiveness was ever in doubt.
“(But) we’re midst negotiations at the moment and it’s certainly better to be sitting in those discussions having just won Bathurst than not.”
Sunday’s success was made even sweeter for Edwards on the account of Mostert’s history with the team.
Edwards created a Dunlop Series team for the now 22-year-old in late 2011 before graduating the youngster into the main series through FPR customer Dick Johnson Racing last year and stepping him into the factory fold for 2014.
Edwards watched on nervously as Mostert closed on and then passed the dramatically slowing Whincup over the final lap and a half.
“We knew Jamie was in trouble and we knew the moment that Dutto (Red Bull team manager Mark Dutton) got on the radio (to Whincup on the penultimate lap) he must have been really in trouble,” smiled Edwards.
“We thought he (Jamie) had pushed a little too hard but you never know because they’ve been close before and have gotten away with it.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking and we didn’t realise until they were on that last lap (that Whincup would run out).”
Although a fairytale finish, FPR’s Bathurst weekend was far from smooth sailing.
Its Jeld-Wen and The Bottle-O entries were both crashed heavily in practice, while Mostert was excluded from qualifying and had to start at the back of the pack.
Despite the pre-race setbacks and distractions, Edwards insists that the whole team was more relaxed during the build-up than in previous years.
“We got the monkey off our back last year so we approached this weekend just like any other race,” he said.
“Everyone was in bed at 10 o’clock the night before the race and they slept alright.
“In years gone by you’d spend half the night dreaming and wishing you could do it, but I think everyone was a lot more relaxed this year.”