CAMPBELLFIELD, Australia — official series release by Bruce Newton — Robert Cianflone/Getty Images AsiaPac photo —
The Ford Falcon road car will disappear from sale at the end of 2016, but Prodrive Racing Australia has confirmed it intends to race the FG X in 2017 and potentially on into 2018.
The former factory team and star driver Mark Winterbottom won the V8 Supercars driver’s championship in 2015 in the FG X’s debut year and team principal Tim Edwards says there is plenty of performance upside still to be gleaned.
“When you think about it we raced the (Falcon) FG for six years and this is our second year with the FG X and we have demonstrated in year one it is a competitive car,” Edwards explained.
However, Penske Racing president Tim Cindric said fellow Ford team DJR Team Penske was still potentially months from making a call on its 2017 racing car.
“It’s March of 2016 — I think a lot can happen between now and then, but we will continue to keep our options open in terms of what’s best for our organisation,” he said.
Courtesy of the Gen2 technical regulations that debut in 2017, teams can adopt engines other than V8s and body styles other than four door sedans, but without manufacturer support Edwards said PRA wasn’t interested in moving away from a competitive package.
“It’s the logical things for us to be doing,” said Edwards. “I don’t think any one will be changing platforms for next year. The rules allow it but I don’t think they will. Irrespective of a manufacturer or anything, if I just put my Prodrive racing hat on I want to race a competitive car.”
“You want to maximise the time you race that car because – who knows – you might change to a whatever and take a backward step. You would then have to start that learning curve.”
Edwards said the decision on 2018 would be made within six months.
“Beyond 2017, of course, we can carry on racing it (FG X). Whether we want to, whether it is the right thing to do, that’s a little bit too far out. That’s something we need to make a decision on.”
A new manufacturer alliance would change PRA’s plans, but Edwards saId there was no sign of a deal being done.
“I am not aware of any manufacturer out there at the moment that is ready to jump in. I know there are people interested and looking into it. But there is no one saying, ‘Which team do we go with?’ We have to stay open-minded about that, but for the foreseeable future we will be racing Fords and we may always race Fords.”
PRA races four Falcon FG Xs in the V8 Supercars championship for Winterbottom, Chaz Mostert, Cameron Waters and Chris Pither, who pilots the customer Super Black Racing entry; the team also fields two FG X Falcons in the Dunlop Development series for Garry Jacobsen and Jack Le Broq.
DJR Team Penske enters Falcons for Scott Pye and new recruit Fabian Coulthard. The two teams have a technical alliance.
Edwards acknowledged PRA would be venturing into new territory by racing an obsolete and out of production model. The main immediate challenge was negotiating a stockpile of body panels before Ford’s Campbellfield plant closed on October 7.
“They are frantically making panels for smash repairs for the next 10 years and we are working with them to put our requirements in line,” Edwards explained. “The last thing they need is us to gobble up all their crash requirements because of the number of bonnets, boots and things we consume as race damage between Penske and ourselves.”
Edwards played down the commercial and image concerns of racing an obsolete car.
“At the moment we are racing a Ford because we know a large percentage of the people who follow this sport are Ford fans and Falcon fans as well. We have great support from the Ford dealers and the fact we might be racing a Ford Falcon that they no longer sell in 2017 is to me (water under the bridge). … We are polishing the oval and it’s great.”
Cindric summed it up even more succinctly: “We are racers, we race what cars are fast.”
The negotiations on body panels follow on from Ford Australia’s decision to allow PRA and DJR Team Penske to continue to use the blue oval on their cars and merchandise in 2016, as well as supply some road cars for team use.
But Edwards made it clear there was no thawing from Ford, which formally pulled out of V8 Supercars at the end of 2015.
“There is no change of heart or ongoing discussions or anything like that going on,” he said.
The first Australian-built Falcon rolled out of the Campbellfield plant in 1960. The nameplate will have been built without interruption for the 56 years when the last car is completed.
Apart from the Group A era in the 1980s and early 1990s, the Falcon has been the focus of blue oval touring car fans in Australia since the 1960s. The historic nameplate has claimed 18 Australian touring car and V8 Supercar championships, and Ford has 19 victories in what is now the Bathurst 1000.
CREDIT: V8 Supercars