Ford expects new manufacturers to join Supercars
Ford is not pinning its return to Supercars on its long-standing rivalry with Holden, with the Blue Oval expecting that more makes will sign up for the Australian series.
While originally built on the concept of a Ford versus Holden battle, Supercars has welcomed a number of new manufacturers through the doors since the Car of the Future regulations were introduced in 2013, including factory efforts from Nissan and Volvo, and a customer programme from Mercedes.
The series could potentially be staring down the barrel of a return to a two-make system, however, with the Volvos and Mercedes long gone, and huge question marks over Nissan's plans beyond the end of its current contract, which expires this year.
Having just announced a revival of its factory backing in the series with a brand new Mustang Supercar, Ford is hoping that it won't be racing just Holden next year. Australian President and CEO Graeme Whickman reckons the best outcome is a diverse range of manufacturers, rather than a return to tribal battles of the early Supercars days.
"I’d certainly like to see more than just red versus blue," he said.
"I think that’s important. We don’t measure ourselves against one manufacturer, whether it be on the race track or on the road.
"We’re trying to distinguish ourselves separate to past history, Holden versus Ford, we look beyond that now.
"I hope that’d extend beyond the race track now as well."
Whickman added that even if Nissan was to walk away and leave Ford and Holden as the only manufacturers, he has confidence that the series has the ability to bring other makes in.
"We had a point of view around what we thought might be on the track, so we had a bit of a point of view around what we thought when we walked into discussions with all the teams and Ford Performance about what we might come up against in the first instance," he said. "But we have confidence though that will expand.
"We are fully expecting more than just red versus blue as the series has its own discussions with other OEMs."
Supercars CEO Sean Seamer confirmed that the series is still highly motivated to bring more makes to the sport, even if there is a short-term return to the old Ford vs Holden era.
"If it were to happen we’d continue to look to bring in further manufacturers," he said.
"Agreeing with Graeme's comment, the automotive marketplace has changed a lot since then, particularly in Australia.
"If we do go back to having two manufacturers in the sport, we will continue to develop the conversations that are already ongoing to support broader diversity and relevance for our fans.
"There have been a number of ongoing discussions between Supercars teams and manufacturers. We’re supporting those discussions.
"I think [the Mustang] project certainly puts a clear stake in the ground that we as a category, as a sport, is open to business.
"We’re flexible with the guidelines we operate under and the Mustang, due to cultural and broad fan support for what Graeme and the teams are doing with Ford Performance is starting to heat up other conversations.
"That’s purely logical isn’t it, really?"
Seamer also says the series hasn't given up on retaining Nissan, even claiming that the series would love to see the GT-R adapted into Supercars-spec in what would be a nostalgic return of the nameplate to top-level Aussie Touring Car racing.
"Obviously we’re working with Nissan and particularly what the future looks like for those guys," he said.
"We don’t have an update at this point, but if the question is would we all like to see Godzilla return? Yes, absolutely. Do the Gen2 guidelines allow for that? Yes, Absolutely.
"But that’s ultimately a decision that Nissan will make over the coming weeks and months."
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