Revisions to the Supercars format revealed in 2016 allow for a broader range of body styles and engine layouts, from the current V8 four-doors through to four-cylinder coupes, to fight for championship points. However, while Ford is taking advantage with the Mustang coupe, its decades-old rival is likely to stick with the recently revealed four-door ZB Commodore racer.
The Mustangs will turn a wheel in anger for the first time in 2019 at March’s Adelaide 500.
Ford’s support for the Mustang – both DJR Team Penske and Tickford Racing have confirmed they will swap out of their FGX Falcons at the end of this season – includes further investment in Supercars. The brand is also stumping up a hardcore Ranger Raptor as the series’ official recovery vehicle.
Both Ford Australia and Ford Performance will work with DJR Team Penske and Tickford Racing “combining the technical knowledge and expertise of Ford Performance with the experience and skillset of these highly-successful teams”.
“Having Ford back on the Supercars grid and with its iconic Mustang is going to be brilliant for the whole sport,” Tickford team owner Rod Nash said. “Mustang is Ford’s halo brand and with its 54th birthday it keeps recording more milestones, but I think having a Mustang Supercar is going to be a very significant one for the brand in this country.
“We welcome the Mustang to Supercars, and it’s fantastic that Ford, and its Ford Performance division, see the Supercars Championship as a great competitive environment and also a strong marketing platform to be involved in. This is a landmark day for Australian motorsport and the teams involved.”
DJR Team Penske co-owner Dick Johnson, a 40-plus-year advocate of the brand, was equally keen to talk up the relationship. “Throughout the entire history of this team, we’ve never run anything but a Ford, and this announcement today is fantastic,” he said. “The fact that we will be able to build and race a Mustang in the 2019 Supercars Championship is music to my ears. It’s great to be back in the Ford fold, and we’ll continue to ensure that we give Ford – and its millions of fans – something to cheer about.”
Holden Motorsport said it was keen to see the Ford Australia-backed teams back out on the track. “Holden Motorsport would like to welcome Ford back to the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship,” it said in a statement. “The Holden-Ford rivalry stretches back to the 1960s and is considered one of the greatest in motorsport history across the globe. It’s also fuelled an incredible passion for motorsport in Australia.”
Ford has its work cut out. Since 1960, Holden has stood on the top step of the podium 537 times, while Ford has only taken it 351 times. For the record, another 30 have been claimed by Nissan. Likewise, Holden has claimed 331 pole positions against Ford’s 273 and Nissan’s 26.
Teams have dubbed the Ford Mustang as the Holden ZB Commodore killer. Both Ford-backed entrants are yet to confirm what engine will power their Mustang racers. It is expected they will scrap for the 2019 driver’s championship with a carryover 5.0-litre V8 under the bonnet, though speculation exists about the introduction of a twin-turbo V6.