Ford’s involvement in Supercars as a factory-backed manufacturer hinges on the sport’s ability to secure another brand for the Blue Oval to compete against.
That’s the position of Ford’s global head of motorsport, Mark Rushbrook, who has told Wheels that Ford’s appetite to compete in Supercars is dependent on the brand’s ability to measure itself against other manufacturers.
Holden’s impending departure from the Aussie new-car marketplace means the Commodore will also disappear from the Supercars grid at the end of next year, effectively ending the decades-long Blue v Red rivalry that has been so central to the sport.
“Competing against other manufacturers is very important for us, that is part of our story,” Rushbrook told Wheels.
“We want to show what we are capable of against other manufacturers, and if they are not there, then that part of the story falls away.”
If Ford was to retract its factory support of the category, it would leave Supercars with no official manufacturer involvement as the sport looks to reinvent itself ahead of introducing new ‘Gen 3’ regulations from 2022.
While Ford’s stance is likely to put Supercars on notice, Rushbrook added the formula he uses to decide whether Ford competes in any given category is multi-faceted.
Having suitable competitors on track is just one aspect, as is the ability to deploy its knowledge in areas of technical advancement, the latter being something it did to great success with the latest Ford Mustang racer.
“It is not a simple recipe, we have some pillars that we look for in everything that we do in motorsport,” Rushbrook explained. “We also want to be in races, in championships, and winning those races and championships that matter.
“It has got to be a series or race of significance.”
In Rushbrook’s eyes Supercars, and particularly the Bathurst 1000, remains a significant championship and race for Ford.
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Despite ostensibly being a national category focused on a small local market, Ford’s head office in Detroit remains proud of its heritage in the Australian series.
Finding a new manufacturer will be a challenge for Supercars and its teams, as global car companies scramble to reassess their priorities amidst a global pandemic. Committing money to a factory racing program in Australia is harder to justify than ever.
However, there are some silver linings. Triple Eight boss Roldan Dane has told Race News his team will not race Holden Commodores in 2022 and will bring a new manufacture to the sport.
“We have another manufacturer. We know what we’re doing,” he said.
Similarly, Walkinshaw Andretti United team co-owner Ryan Walkinshaw remains bullish about his ability to replace the Commodores his team currently races.
Walkinshaw’s long-term partnership with GM as part of the newly formed GMSV provides the team with at least one direct line of communication to a major manufacturer.
Walkinshaw was confident at the start of the year his team would not be racing Commodores in 2021, however COVID-19 has forced him to adjust the timelines of a future manufacturer switch.
“We are anticipating that we will have a new manufacturer hopefully for 2022 or 2023,” he told The Loud Pedal podcast.
“We actually had two manufacturers competing with each other for our team to become a new factory team for 2021 and sadly with the impact of COVID-19, both of those negotiations collapsed, which was really disappointing. One of them we were at contract stage.”
Both Walkinshaw and Dane will need to get deals signed, confirmed, and announced swiftly to placate the Blue Ovals desire to have a rival locked-in by 2022.