Mustang for V8 Supercars?

words - Bruce Newton
Roland Dane pitches for coupes to race against sedans
Ford could have a future racing the iconic Mustang in the V8 Supercars championship if a proposal allowing two-door coupes to go head-to-head with the current four-door sedans gains support.

The idea, pitched by V8 Supercars board member and Red Bull Racing Australia and Triple Eight Race Engineering owner Roland Dane in a strategy paper late last year, has gained added impetus following Ford’s announcement that it will cease local manufacturing in October 2016 and kill off the iconic Falcon nameplate.

“The days of four-door medium and large saloons being main players in the market place have gone,” Dane told motoring.com.au. “So that’s what it [the paper] is really about.”

It is understood Dane’s proposal received only limited attention from the board at the time he presented it because of the amount of issues that have beset the category of late, culminating in the recent departure of CEO David Malone and his replacement with former TV executive James Warburton.

“Now we have got some stability back in there I am hoping it will get looked at properly,” said Dane. “But it has very much been in my mind for a long time.”

Dane’s thought process isn’t driven by the plight of Ford specifically, but of the decline of the global four-door sedan market and the end of the Australian automotive industry's ability to build stand-alone models.

The Falcon is going and the Holden Commodore VF will be replaced by a global model in 2017, most likely a front-wheel drive rival for the Toyota Camry and Aurion.

“People’s tastes and needs and whatever are changing,” Dane said. “But on the other hand there will always be the niche cars so we have to make ourselves open and flexible.

“I am saying have an open mind about two-door bodyshells. It is all about aspiration. Aspirational vehicles in the Australian market in the 1970s were actually two-door vehicles. Then they became derivatives of locally produced four-door Fords and Holdens.

“Now times are changing again. We have to have an open mind as to whether we go back to those two-door vehicles.”

Ford has already confirmed the next generation of its iconic Mustang, due for reveal in 2014, will be built in right-hand drive. Ford Australia has yet to say if it will be sold here. Dane argues it would be a logical car to race, especially now that V8 Supercars has adopted the ‘one size fits all’ Car of the Future chassis – another initiative he championed.

“If they wanted to race the Mustang here on the platform we have got today it would be easy to do,” he said.

Ford’s racing future beyond this year is unclear. Its contract with Ford Performance Racing is up for renewal. Over the last few seasons its V8 Supercars presence has dwindled to just six cars.

If his proposal is adopted Dane suggests Betty Klimenko’s Erebus Motorsport could race an E-class coupe if Mercedes-Benz made that request, or the Kelly brothers could move to a Skyline from the Altima.

Racing coupes against saloons would make the parity puzzle even more challenging, but Dane said it was solvable: “The aerodynamics can be equalised enough at the speeds that we do.”

Dane downplayed the potential of such a structure allowing the creation of separate V8 Supercars championships in other parts of the world, even though a series featuring globally recognised pony cars like the Mustang could generate more overseas interest.

“First and foremost I am only interested in it from our Australian championship to keep it relevant. We have kept it relevant by the Car of the Future but … we also have to keep keeping it relevant. That’s why we have to keep an open door and an open mind on this from an Australian point of view.

“Ultimately it’s quite difficult for even a very well conceived formula in Australia to go that much further afield because everyone has got their own ideas in different places. But you never know.”

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Published : Friday, 24 May 2013
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