FORD has denied media accusations that it gave a frosty reception to newly crowned V8 Supercars Championship winner Mark Winterbottom after he steered his Falcon FGX to the 2015 title last weekend.
Days after Winterbottom won the title at the final round of the season in Homebush, Sydney, Ford Australia boss Graeme Whickman said the car maker didn’t ignore the achievement, despite pulling factory backing and finance from the team for the 2015 season.
“People can report what they want, and at times people report without not all the facts at hand,” Whickman told Wheels at an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of its You Yangs proving ground this week.
He said the car maker still had a strong relationship with the team, and was proud of its championship-winning effort.
Whickman pointed to Ford Australia’s Facebook and Twitter social media accounts, which both carried messages of congratulations to the privateer Prodrive team’s effort as restrained celebration given the company’s death sentence for the Falcon, which will officially end its production run on October 7, 2016.
“I saw some commentary around ‘no-body had reached out’ [about Winterbottom’s title win],” said Whickman.
“Over the course of the weekend, yes there were people reaching out in an appropriate way, and yes we acknowledged and congratulated on the social channels.
“So we were there, but what we didn’t do was take out a full-page ad, or a television advertisement.”
The more subtle congratulations – a far cry from the Falcon’s more famous motorsport victories such as the famous one-two finish in the 1977 Bathurst race – are consistent with Ford’s delicate handling of the end of local manufacturing operations, and don’t reflect any bad blood between the carmaker and the team.
“We keep it to the channels where we think the fans are, where we think it’s relevant,” he said.
“We’re not going to try and get involved in chest-beating around that type of success – at the same time we’re trying to be a humble brand.”
“We’ve been very up front with [team principal] Rod [Nash] and [team manager] Tim [Edwards] and the team all the way through. We’ve acted honourably; they’ve acted honourably,” Whickman said.
“At a personal level we maintain a good relationship, and we celebrate where appropriate. That’s very distinct from taking out public pages, and people can make the observation how they wish, but we’ve done, I think, the right thing.”