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by Tim Beissmann

Ford Australia will leave V8 Supercars at the end of next year following confirmation today that it will stop supporting the last remaining factory-backed team Ford Performance Racing (FPR).

Speaking with CarAdvice today, Ford Australia communications and public affairs director Wes Sherwood confirmed the decision to withdraw its funding of FPR was a result of its increased focus on investing in the range of performance cars in its showroom.

“We’ve been transforming our entire business and at the heart of that is refreshing and expanding our product line-up and overhauling our consumer experience with major investments,” Sherwood started.

“That has made it difficult with decisions such as this to not renew our Supercars team sponsorships after next season, but we are investing heavily in our future and that is the reason for this tough decision.”

Sherwood confirmed Ford Australia will cut ties with V8 Supercars at the end of next season and has no plans to make a return to the racetrack when the series gets a major overhaul in 2017.

“This is our long-term plan. We believe that investing in our product line-up and our consumer experience is how we are going to ensure a bright future for the company, so that is something we are not going to move away from.

“We have no other racing plans at this point.”

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Sherwood said the call to leave V8 Supercars was “absolutely a difficult decision”, and acknowledged there would be some fans who would be disappointed by the move.

“We have so many passionate fans and there are many that follow the Supercars series, but really when you look closely at what we’re doing in the performance world we’re actually expanding our performance offerings.

“We’ve got the Fiesta ST in addition to our Falcons, we’ve got the Mustang coming and the Focus ST, so we are absolutely committed to performance.

“We think if we were not putting out credible performance vehicles then that is the surest way to disenfranchise our customers, so that’s what we’re investing in – at the core of it we’ve got to continue our performance DNA and have credible vehicles and we think we’ve done that and we’re expanding on that with some of the new vehicles we have coming soon.

“We really think we’re going to maintain the core of our performance customers, but do understand that for some of them we will have to work hard to show how we’re committed to this performance going forward.”

Sherwood insisted Ford Australia remained committed to the 2015 season and said the company was very proud of FPR and all involved with the V8 Supercars entry.

“We’ll be supporting the teams next year. The FG X Falcon will be on the grid, so our focus now turns to performing on the track next year.

“We are very proud of the teams. FPR had a terrific year and another fantastic Bathurst win, and we are so proud of the teams and so proud of our relationship with the teams.

“We just want to make sure that everyone understands the deep level of respect we do have for them.”

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Tim Edwards, CEO of Prodrive Racing Australia (which has raced under the FPR guise since the team’s inception in 2003), described Ford Australia’s decision to withdraw its support from the team and the championship as “extremely disappointing”.

“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,” Edwards said.

“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.”

Edwards assured FPR and Ford fans that the team’s involvement in the championship would go ahead as planned in 2015, and said the team was passionate about continuing to fly the Blue Oval flag into 2016 and beyond.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Prodrive Racing Australia owner Rod Nash said while he didn’t agree with Ford Australia’s decision his company’s determination to succeed into the future was unwavering.

“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.

“Our immediate focus is of course this week and finishing off the season strongly in Sydney. We want to secure Mark second in the points and try and top off Chaz’s Bathurst-winning year with more success.

“Once we’re done in Sydney we can begin working on the future and exploring our range of opportunities.”

Speaking to CarAdvice in Japan, the man in charge of Nissan’s motorsport activities, Darren Cox, said Ford’s decision to pull out of the championship comes as no surprise.

“We pretty much forecast it, the V8 Supercar organisers need to take more notice of the new manufacturers than the old ones, this is just proof of that, the two teams that are running Ford are knocking on our door right about now!” Cox said.

 




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