FORD AND COSWORTH - THE LOGICAL LINK
Ford has announced that it has bought Cosworth Racing. Alan Henry, the internationally renowned industry expert, has observed the relationship for the past 30 years and reflects on the purchase.
================================================================================= Ford's successful purchase of Cosworth Racing has cemented a bond which extends back to the dawn of Ford's European competition programme more than 35 years ago.
The Ford/Cosworth relationship is also a seminal in the history of European motorsport. When Cosworth manufactured Ford's maiden Grand Prix engine in 1967, powering Jim Clark to his famous victory in the Dutch Grand Prix that year, Cosworth and Ford re-wrote the parameters of Formula 1 car performance and integrated racing car design.
With its debut success in Formula One, Ford was endowed with a dynamic, youthful and creative image. It also started a joint engineering program for road car development, with the various high performance road cars which have carried the Cosworth name being the most visible element. Behind the scenes Cosworth has made a major contribution to all Ford's road products, while Ford has used its engineering prowess to aid Cosworth racing car engineering, and both companies have benefited from staff development programmes.
The purchase has primarily been finalised in order to secure the long-term future of its key motor sport programmes, including F1, CART (formerly Indycar) and touring cars.
This can now continue in a confidential and exclusive environment and is almost certain to allow a smoother and more rounded approach to Ford's crucially important global motorsport programmes, as well as a greater cross over between racing and road car development programmes.
Ford did not originally bid for Cosworth Racing at the time of Audis eventually successful proposal to acquire the business as Vickers, who then owned Cosworth, were reluctant to fragment the company. Now, as a result of subsequent negotiations, conducted under much more favourable conditions, Ford has dramatically enhanced its future potential and image.
"This agreement is ideal for all the parties concerned," says Martin Whitaker, Ford's Director of European Motorsport. "Ford has gained full control of its own motorsport destiny, Audi has the elements its requires for its product program and the shareholders of Vickers have gained a fair price for the company." Acquiring Cosworth will also permit a much closer integration of Ford's advanced vehicle technology programmes, headed by Neil Ressler, Vice President of Ford Advanced Vehicle Technology, in Detroit. It also allows the cross-over of personnel from Ford's various engineering departments to take place in a more disciplined environment, which is regarded as roundly beneficial by all concerned.
The Ford motorsport program is fully integrated into all areas of the company and it is considerably more than a marketing and public relations exercise. A recent audit of all Ford's motorsport activities revealed that it represents excellent value for money and the very fact that Ford completed the audit programme illustrates the car maker's business-like approach to the sport.
Technology Transfer, the buzz-phrase that describes the movement of technology to and from motorsport, is represented by both the transfer of common technology, such as the engine management systems shared by the Zetec-R V10 Formula 1 engine and Ford road cars, and design concepts, such as reducing internal engine friction. Working together Ford and Cosworth engineers have developed new means of reducing engine friction, which has enabled the racing engine to offer more power at higher engine speeds and Ford's road car owners to benefit improved economy, performance and refinement.
With the ownership of Cosworth Racing, the Northampton-based company will be become even more involved in Ford's road product plans and it will have even greater access to the advanced technology which Ford uses to develop engines and powertrains, to their mutual benefit.
Mutual benefit is also found in the swapping of staff at all levels of both companies. Ford engineers benefit from personal development when exposed to the pressure cooker atmosphere of motorsport. Problems have to be solved quickly, accurately and on time: A Grand Prix cannot be delayed. They also learn to work with a wider range of people with whom they would not normally come into contact. The Cosworth engineers benefit from working within the company structure of Ford, using equipment which is not available in a company the size of Cosworth and, again personal development also benefits from contact with people outside their normal areas of contact.
This program has proved so successful for both companies that it now extends well outside engineering to include most areas of management and skills.
Details of the timetable of Ford's acquisition of Cosworth Racing, and the integration of its staff into the company, will be finalised in coming months. Even so, Martin Whitaker, Ford Director of European Motorsport says the advantages which the new partnership offers are already self evident.
"We have been working closely and successfully with Cosworth for more than three decades. It is an incredibly strong platform on which to build for the future," he said. "Our engineers have been working increasingly closely with those at Cosworth in recent years and we can now develop that relationship within the context of our global product engineering programmes."
The opportunities offer by the purchase of Cosworth Racing to development Ford's motorsport programme are many fold and it is clear that it will expand beyond the present exclusive contract with Stewart Ford, which runs until the end of the year 2000, and the customer engines for Tyrell and Minardi.
Cosworth's much respected reputation has been founded on over 35 years of success in top-level motorsport around the world. Ford-Cosworth engines have powered cars to victory in 174 Grand Prix, 12 Indianapolis 500s and countless other international and national races and rallies.
Cosworth Racing was one of four divisions within the Cosworth group prior to its acquisition by Ford. The business believes that its commitment to excellent engineering standards, combined with the specialist understanding of Ford, will sustain its vibrantly successful and enterprising image in the future. It is widely understood that Ford will allow the business to continue its own uniqueness and independent identity, much as it has with other Ford-owned companies, like Jaguar and Aston Martin.
Cosworth Racing will remain at its Northampton, UK, base and its US operation - Cosworth Racing Inc., serving the CART programme - which is also included in the sale to Ford, will continue at its Los Angeles facility.