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Thread: Mustangs in Supercars: Why not?

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    Senior Member DoctorCleveland's Avatar
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    Mustangs in Supercars: Why not?

    The following is a story from the current issue of Australian Muscle Car magazine. I thought the members here would be interested as it details and explains the complexities of introducing the Mustang into Supercars.


    Mustangs in Supercars: Why not?

    Ford Australia continues to reject pleas to allow its Mustang -- or any other current model - to be represented in the Supercars series. Mark Mathot investigates the impasse and wonders whether there is another way forward.

    The reaction was immediate and unequivocal. A couple of weeks before the 2018 running of the Bathurst 12 Hour, spy shots emerged of McLeod Auto Racing Concepts' new endurance racer. Wow, said the spectators, it's a Mustang, it's a V8 and it looks like a lot like we imagined a a Mustang might look if it was racing in Supercars.
    Three examples of the new car made their world debut in the 12 Hour. One crashed and one caught fire, but the third won the Invitational class at a canter, posting lap times that would have placed it mid-field in the Bathurst 1000.
    Many observers asked: why can't there be a Mustang like that in the Supercars series? And why is it called "MARC II"?
    Talk of developing a Mustang-shaped Supercar began well before Ford ceased production of Falcon in October 2016.
    The following April, a newspaper report that a deal had been done to the race Mustang prompted what was then known as Prodrive Racing Australia (now Tickford Racing) to issue a statement that "no such decision had been made" and it was evaluating with multiple partners options for the "eventual" replacement of the FGX Falcon racecars.
    The story also received a curt response from the then global boss of Ford Performance, Dan Pericak. "I don't know if you're ever going to see a Mustang or not,” he told Motorsport.com, “but right now we are not participating in Supercars.”
    Despite the denials, reliable sources say that Ford came very close to green lighting a Mustang program at that time but was spooked. Quite why a speculative media story would scupper a carefully negotiated deal is far from clear but sources say Ford remains “acutely sensitive” to all mentions of the subject.
    A year having past, Australian Muscle Car approached Tickford Racing for an update on the situation, only to be told that the April 2017 statement still stood. Marketing director Peter Trevaskis was fractionally more expansive, allowing that ‘our number one plan is to stay with Ford’.
    “We’ve got our Tickford business which is built, obviously, around aftermarket mods on Fords, our fans know us as the Ford team, we were created as the factory Ford team, we retain a strong Ford fan base and our plan is to run a Ford.”
    While Tickford continues to place it hopes on Ford, comments by Roger Penske at the Detroit Motor Show in January and reported by Supercars’ own website, suggested his patience was running out.
    “If we can’t get the support we need from Ford in Australia – they have been very sensitive to their situation there and to me we have to manage through that – we will look at what other manufacturers might have interest in us.”
    Penske is an extremely astute and political operator and not given to ill-considered comments, so his remarks might have been intended to bring matters to a head.
    DJR Team Penske declined to provide a comment for this story, but sources say the Roger Penske quote caused “mayhem” behind closed doors. It seems that while Ford Australia might not be keen to have DJR Team Penske race Mustang, Ford in Detroit definitely doesn’t want them racing anything else. chan
    Roger Penske upped the ante in comments made to Auto Action magazine, published the day this issue of AMC was sent to press.
    “You know, we can run a Commodore, too,” he declared. “This is about winning. At a certain point, if you can’t get there on one horse, you’re going to have to get on another one.”
    So what is going on? Prior to Penske’s latest comments, we asked Ford Australia for comment. After a three week wait we received this statement: “We are asked about Supercars on a regular basis and nothing has changed. Ford has ongoing relationships with the teams that race Fords in the Supercars series, and we continue to have an open dialogue with the teams that we support.”
    Clear as mud. When asked to clarify what that ‘support’ entails, a Ford spokesman responded with, “Ford has ongoing relationships with DJR/Penske and PRA/Tickford, which it supports in terms of technical information on Falcon as well as vehicles and licensing of the Ford logo.
    There are, however, subtle signs Ford’s anti-Supercars stance might, just possibly, change.
    The company has spent the last several years and a lot of money trying to change its blokey, “Falcon car company” image to one more appealing to aspirational women. Despite extensive and expensive marketing involving sassy young actress Ngaire Dawn Fair since 2014, Fiesta sales have slowed to a trickle and the Focus is a minor player in the Corolla/Mazda3/Hyuandai i30 class.
    Meantime, Ford’s big, macho, models are going gangbusters. The Ranger utility is easily its best selling vehicle in Australia, outselling the rest of the range combined, and Mustang is its unlikely number two model. Such has been the unexpected and unprecedented success of the American Muscle Car until recently Ford could not import enough to satisfy demand.
    Now Ford is actively advertising Mustang in press, on billboards and TV. Most noticeably, Ford Mustang was one of the presenting sponsors of the Ten Network’s telecast of the Adelaide 500 Supercars race…
    It’s a glimmer of hope and not before time.
    There’s a growing consensus in Supercars that time is fast running out to find a Falcon replacement. Triple Eight team boss Roland Dane has been the first to sound the alarm publicly but there are others saying the same in private: a solution must be found this year or risk the category becoming “Formula Commodore in the near future.
    Of course, the replacement for eight Falcons doesn’t have to come from Ford. Almost any new model would be better than none. But while Roger Penske convincing a new manufacturer would be very welcome, having two Toyotas/BMWs/KIAs/whatever on the grid would not replace the other six Falcons racing in the main series at present.
    Supercars really need another model of car to be made widely available to the main series and (eventually) Super2 teams. Considering the money and time required to develop a competitive car, there’s a compelling logic to, essentially, re-shelling the current Ford supercar with another Ford shape.
    While Mondeo is a possibility, the Mustang would tick more boxes: it its rear-wheel-drive like the racecars, a muscle-bound two door like a Falcon Hardtop, a link to Australian touring car history (Moffat’s Trans Am, Johnson’s Greens-Tuf car) would legitimise the continued use of the proven, highly competitive V8 engine.
    The last reason maybe the most compelling. The current plan is for the new ZB Commodores to convert to turbocharged V6 engines in 2019. If Nissan stays in the series beyond the end of this year, it may well also use a six-cylinder engine.
    Yet not everyone in the Supercars circus is convinced that moving wholesale away from V8s is an unequivocally good idea. If homologating Mustang meant that there were still some bent eights on the grid, that would be generally welcome.
    The appearance of the MARC II has raised an intriguing question: what is to stop a Supercars team – or the Supercars series as a whole – developing or homologating Mustang without Ford’s involvement?
    Firstly, AMC understands that the Mustang shape will not fit the current Supercars’ Car of the Future (COTF) platform. Therefore, a change to the technical regulations governing the platform would be required. This, in turn, would require a revamp to how parity is achieved in the category, given the low-slung Mustang would have a significant aero advantage.
    The other obvious barriers are engineering capability and money. DJR Team Penske and Tickford are no doubt capable of designing and validating the cars. They are also no doubt seeking financial approval from Ford to do so but could probably comfortably bear the cost burden – variously estimated between as little as $500,000 and into seven figures – between the two teams if they had to. The real sticking point appears to be that no one is game to do it without Ford granting its intellectual property.
    It appears the there is nothing in the Supercars series rules which specifically requires a team to have a licence from a manufacturer before developing a car. Supercars’ general manager of corporate affairs Cole Hitchcock says that “to my knowledge that’s never been tested, although, if it were me and I wanted to run a Mustang Supercar, I’d want the full endorsement of the manufacturer.”
    Roland Dane is even less equivocal: “If you want to buy a road car and modify it to go production car racing, there is nothing to stop you. But what we have in the category is a purpose-designed racecar which we dress with road car panels – some of which are OE and some of which are recreation in composite.
    “What few people seem to understand – even some very smart people – is that if we want to use someone’s styling we have to ask their permission.”
    Well, perhaps.
    Developed and built in Queensland, the MARC II is a pure endurance racecar, purpose-designed to comply with the prototype SRX class of Creventic-promoted 24 Hour Series such as the Dubai 24 Hour. Powered by the same 5.2 litre Ford Coyote engine used in the Mustang Shelby GT350 road car, it is also approved to compete in most of the Intercontinental GT Challenge events, including the Bathurst 12 Hour and the Spa 24 Hour, and has been invited into the Australian GT Series.
    MARC has designed it also to comply with Australian Sports Sedan regulations. A version, minus the endurance racing equipment, will be offered as a turn-key solution for competitors in the National Sports Sedan Series.
    With a tube-framed chassis draped in reproduction road car panels, the MARC II is, conceptually, at least, not a million miles from a current Supercar. The bare chassis is constructed by PACE Innovations in Queensland, using some of the same ideas (a rear transaxle for example) that the company developed for Supercars’ COTF, on which the current grid of Supercars are built.
    However, the similarities are to a Supercar, or a road-going Mustang, end there. Low-slung and menacing, the MARC II is lower, longer and wider than either.
    MARC Cars Australia boss Ryan McLeod pointedly says its new car is not a Mustang but concedes the obvious: that the body design was inspired by Ford’s wildly popular sports coupe.
    “The old MARC I car has a problem: everyone who drives one loves it, but they don’t like telling their mates that their racecar is a Ford Focus. It’s not a Porsche, Lamborghini or Ferrari or something cool.
    “At the same time we were thinking about developing a new car to compete in a faster category I was driving a Mustang road car. It’s one of the most popular cars in the world, and we took some design strokes from that because we knew it would appeal to our customer base.”
    Yet the MARC II carries no Ford or Mustang badging. On the nose, the inset grille features only two additional spotlights and the MARC logo. McLeod said he didn’t think it was reasonable to call it a Mustang.
    “I don’t know how stoutly Ford protects its intellectual property but I don’t believe our car would be subject to that anyway. Though obviously the body styling is taken from a Mustang, the only parts from the road car are the tail lamps and the wing mirrors. The racecar is two metres wide, the front design is different and the airflow is different.
    “You’ve got to look at what the car is not – and it’s not a Mustang. It is our own car with a body on it that’s themed from a Mustang but that’s really about it.”
    Nevertheless, MARC’s example show’s that it is possible to develop a space-framed, Ford V8-powered racecar shaped like a Mustang without requiring manufacturer involvement.
    But as Supercars has discovered, getting approval to call it a Mustang is much harder.
    The question of intellectual property has also been highlighted by the Trans-Am 2 formula, which is popular in North America, Europe and Central America and recently established a series in Australia.
    In contrast, these tube-framed silhouette car, constructed by Howe Racing in Michigan, are unapologetically described as either a Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger or Ford Mustang.
    Proprietor Chas Howe says the Mustang was developed in 2013 at the request of Ford, which wished to promote its crate engine program. “And while we all know it’s not really a Mustang, the shape was moulded from the production car and with a V8 engine and rear-wheel drive it is relatable and identifiable as the vehicle it is meant to be.”
    As Mustang-shaped silhouette racecars appear in other Australian motor racing series, Supercars continues to try to resolve the impasse with Ford.
    Yet, despite the weight of logic, motor racing industry desire and consumer popularity, it appears Ford Australia remains immovable on the Mustang front. Perhaps Ford and Supercars should listen to Chas Howe on why his TA2 cars have become a multinational success.
    “Everywhere we take it, Mustang people immediately know what it is. That’s pretty important. And it’s a little sexy. Nobody wants their picture taken next to a car they go get groceries in.”

    Dane says Supercars must take action

    Supercars series heavyweight Roland Dane has warned that the category’s management must take urgent action to find a replacement for the current Ford racecars.
    Asked when the current impasse preventing Mustangs replacing the Falcons will become a crisis, the Red Bull Holden Racing Team boss told AMC, “If we don’t have at least one new shape on the grid next year we’ve got a real problem.”
    Speaking on the eve of the opening round of the 2018 championship which saw the debut of his Triple Eight Race Engineering-developed ZB Commodore racer, Dane predicted that opposing Falcons, based on the FGX model which ceased production in 2016, would look ‘very second hand’.
    “Whenever you introduce a new car like the ZB Commodore the existing cars around it will look immediately old. That’s just the way it is.
    “For the incoming CEO of Supercars, finding a replacement (for the Falcons) should be at the very top, or near the top, of his agenda.”
    Dane recently resigned from the Board of Supercars, after seven years of service. Freed, perhaps, from the constraints of that position, he has become more vocal about the lack of proactivity by the category’s managers when faced with an uncertain future.
    “Supercars should decide whether it is going to be involved in the process of assisting in the development and validation of a new car,” he said.
    “When the VE Commodore was developed for racing by Walkinshaw in 2007, Holden paid for the whole thing. But the days of having a manufacturer come in and fund 100 percent of development costs are over. The business model for manufacturer involvement has changed.
    “So there’s probably a moment in time when the category as a whole needs to play a bigger part.”
    Dane points out that there is a precedent for Supercars investing in the development of a new car.
    “Everyone forgets that in 2012-13, Supercars gave $1 million to Kelly Racing towards the development of the Nissan V8 engine.”
    There is also a pragmatic reason to do it this way: if a new manufacturer comes in and partners with a two-car team it is under no obligation to make the cars available beyond that team. That was the situation with Volvo and GRM, and when Volvo departed at the end of 2016 the two S60s departed with it.
    But Dane points out that if Supercars contributes to the development costs of a new racecar then there is an obligation to make it available to any team which asks.
    “If Ford does, finally, grant the IP to a team to introduce a new shape – be it Mustang or whatever – I think there would be of enormous concern if that wasn’t made generally available to all the teams who wanted to buy it.”
    Triple Eight bore almost all the seven figure cost of developing the ZB racecar because “that was the only way I was going to happen.”
    “Otherwise we were facing a situation in which we would be running a car no longer on sale. Now you can do that – but can’t do it if you want to be the Holden Racing Team and receive sponsorship for being so.
    “We received assistance from Holden Design at Fisherman’s Bend in terms of shaping the car because there were some complexities involved in taking a front-wheel-drive transverse-engine car with a longitudinal engine. But beyond that we did it all ourselves.
    “To give you one example, because the bill just landed on my desk yesterday, we had to design new headlight units because the production ones were far too heavy. The cost of that, including the design and tooling for the injection moulding, was $50,000
    “Now we went ahead and developed a new car but not every team has the financial resources or the ability to do that.
    “So if we are going to have new cars, Supercars will probably need to contribute to the expense of developing them.”
    As AMC closed for press, Dane elaborated on his desire to see a compatible new Ford model on the grid, telling Auto Action the Mondeo was “the best fit to the template of a touring car from that stable at the moment.”

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    James. defective's Avatar
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    Mondeo is s for more obvious choice than mustang.

    From both sides.

    It will fit cotf much easier, and it will give mondeo some much needed exposure... What, they're selling 3-4 a week?
    Quote Originally Posted by Falc'man View Post
    In the words of a wise man: if you don't read the papers you're uninformed, if you do read the papers you're misinformed.

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    Senior Member DoctorCleveland's Avatar
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    Mondeo has a dubious future, though. It's in a rapidly disappearing market segment and Ford US has yet to decide whether they'll even production, they're reportedly making the Taurus a China-market only car and Chevrolet is discontinuing the Impala. Then there's the comments from the Ford Asia-Pacific boss that Ford's future in Australia isn't with passenger vehicles anymore, but with trucks, SUVs and performance vehicles.

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    Miami Sprint. 4Vman's Avatar
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    Amazing article, really the first time someones openly discussed this in depth in the media.
    My Falcon family heritage: XY V8 Falcon 500, XYGT, XBGT, XC 351 GS, XD 4.1 Spack, EF wagon, AU Wagon, AU2 Wagon, AU2 XR8, BA XR8, BF XR8, FG XR6, Lucky last: Sprint 8. Oh wait, AU3 XLS Marlin Ute!

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    Miami Sprint. 4Vman's Avatar
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    Dane wants Mondeo for a number of reasons.

    1) Mustang shape could create some kind of ability to gain an advantage, if the rules are modified to allow Mustang it opens the door for Camaro too.

    2) He's invested money in ZB and forging a business selling ZB parts, if Camaro comes in his goose is cooked.
    My Falcon family heritage: XY V8 Falcon 500, XYGT, XBGT, XC 351 GS, XD 4.1 Spack, EF wagon, AU Wagon, AU2 Wagon, AU2 XR8, BA XR8, BF XR8, FG XR6, Lucky last: Sprint 8. Oh wait, AU3 XLS Marlin Ute!

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    Senior Member DoctorCleveland's Avatar
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    Speaking of, I noticed an ad for Mustang during nearly every ad break...

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    Senior Member 13726548's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 4Vman View Post
    Dane wants Mondeo for a number of reasons.

    1) Mustang shape could create some kind of ability to gain an advantage, if the rules are modified to allow Mustang it opens the door for Camaro too.

    2) He's invested money in ZB and forging a business selling ZB parts, if Camaro comes in his goose is cooked.
    Not even close...

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    James. defective's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 13726548 View Post
    Not even close...
    Come on daz, you can do better than that.
    You need to elaborate on why he's wrong...
    Quote Originally Posted by Falc'man View Post
    In the words of a wise man: if you don't read the papers you're uninformed, if you do read the papers you're misinformed.

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    Miami Sprint. 4Vman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by defective View Post
    Come on daz, you can do better than that.
    You need to elaborate on why he's wrong...
    He cant elaborate.

    Because he's got no idea on this subject.
    My Falcon family heritage: XY V8 Falcon 500, XYGT, XBGT, XC 351 GS, XD 4.1 Spack, EF wagon, AU Wagon, AU2 Wagon, AU2 XR8, BA XR8, BF XR8, FG XR6, Lucky last: Sprint 8. Oh wait, AU3 XLS Marlin Ute!

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    7753 - 5030 HSE2's Avatar
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    There is no secret that WAU want Camaro.

    This is an American owned team telling it like it is.

    Australia is a small market. They can find manufacturers to talk to, a toe in the door but getting them accross the line is proving difficult.

    When and it’s not an if, Camaro goes global, that currency increases. ZB isn’t even a GM product anymore.

    The Holden teams need a GM product and now thanks to the engine stance it needs to be linked to a V8.

    Holden’s sponsorship agreement with Dane means he needs to recoup his own investment and that’s fair enough too.

    Dane locked up the composite material for the doors. The doors require a specific grade and Dane controls it, or he did till Tickford found a solution.

    As we have seen DJR and Tickford are working together. Tickford are doing the roofs and and DJR are doing the bonnets.

    The doors were ok to go at start of the year but not at Danes price so that’s been delayed till now.

    Walkingshaw as is the case with Tickford, have another agenda with Mustang or Camaro. Obviously the road business has currency in the race/track equation.

    If WAU find a partner to do Camaro, they won’t be the only team to run that car.

    Due to the loss of a portion of Holden’s money, the pool from which to top us is reduced for Dane.

    Blocking Mustang behind the scenes has been Danes agenda and it’s got nothing to do with Ford or Nissan.

    Walkingshaw, Nissan and watching what occurs with mustang and not from an allowance point of view but the hologation of the cage. That’s the sticking point and the issue Dane has locked in on.

    His motivation is said to be about stopping Camaro.
    History is a statement, the future is a question.

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