Broadmeadows announce on Tuesday that DJR Team Penske and Tickford Racing have been given the go ahead to switch to the Mustang to counter Holden’s all-conquering ZB Commodore.
Although not full factory backed efforts, both frontline Ford teams will receive official technical and financial assistance from Broadmeadows to create a Mustang-look V8 racer that insiders are calling “a Commodore killer”.
The Supercars Mustang will be powered by the Blue Oval’s familiar five-litre V8 rather than a localised version of the twin-turbo EcoBoost 3.5-litre V6 as used in the Ford GT racer.
Ford Australia’s about face follows the declaration by DJRTP’s legendary American team owner Roger Penske that the stalwart Blue oval squad could switch to ZB Commodores next year if there was no competitive Ford replacement for the FGX Falcon.
Multiple sources close to Ford’s revival of interest in racing and performance road cars confirmed that DJR Team Penske’s and Tickford Racing’s joint development of the Mustang racer has been finally sanctioned and supported by Broadmeadows.
Senior Supercars officials also denied any knowledge of an impending announcement of Ford Australia’s return with a factory approved Mustang program.
Ford Australia’s re-engagement with racing and belated decision support DJRTP’s and Tickford Racing’s move to the Mustang is the news Blue Oval fans have been waiting for three years.
The Gen2 rules opened the way for the Mustang to be raced in Supercars because they allowed two-door coupes to join the traditional four-door sedans.
The long-awaited approval of the popular pony car’s move into Supercars as the replacement of the aging FG X Falcon is linked with the revival of a fast Ford division in Australia.
Also on Tuesday, Ford Australia will confirm that the company’s global Ford Performance brand is to be introduced locally as an umbrella for high performance models.
It is understood that the Mustang, forthcoming Ranger Raptor and future Focus RS will be sold through selected Ford Performance dealers, like the defunct Ford Performance Vehicles line-up of bespoke high performance Falcons.
In a recognition that Ford Australia has neglected its racing and performance car heritage in recent years, resulting in the collapse of its passenger car sales, the company has also finally decided to re-engage with Supercars.
Although not required by the rules, DJR Team Penske and Tickford Racing have held back from moving to the Mustang body shape without Ford Australia’s approval and support, avoiding any potential dispute over Intellectual Property (IP) rights.
Now that they have the local operation’s backing, the teams will revive and press ahead with a joint Mustang development program they instigated in late 2016.
DJRTP and Tickford Racing have co-operated on preliminary computer design work to adapt the latest Mustang body shape to the New Generation control chassis.
Supercars’ technical department has also conducted extensive computer simulation work to adapt the Mustang road car’s body dimensions to fit the rules, which result in variations of the standard measurements for all models competing in the category.
For example, the Mustang – like the Chevrolet Camaro and Nissan GT-R – will need a modified and raised roof profile to meet the minimum height requirement.
The body kit aerodynamics will also have to be adjusted to account for the Mustang’s smaller frontal area and sleek profile, including a ZB Commodore-style extended rear wing.
The Supercars Mustang will also feature extensive use of composite body panels and inner structures, and other weight-reducing components, following the precedent set by the controversially ‘lightweight’ ZB.
A joint DJRTP/Tickford prototype Mustang racer will be shown in a public demonstration – possibly at the Bathurst 1000 in October – before homologation and aero testing to finalise the design at the end of the year.
Tickford Racing is currently the official Ford homologation team, but development of the Mustang racer will be a co-operative effort with DJRTP.
It is likely that DJRTP majority team owner Roger Penske has brokered additional technical support from the Ford Performance racing division in Detroit through Team Penske’s association as a factory backed Blue Oval team in NASCAR.
Next year’s move from the discontinued FG X Falcon will mark the return of the Mustang to Australian championship touring car racing after an absence of 33 years.
The last Mustang to race in the Australian Touring Car Championship – predecessor to the Supercars series – was Dick Johnson’s five-litre Group A version, which he campaigned in 1985/86.
Before that, the original Mustang dominated the ATCC from 1965-69, with Norm Beechey and the late Ian Geoghegan sweeping the titles.
Along with Geoghegan’s much-modified GTA, Allan Moffat’s iconic 1969 Boss 302 Trans-Am Mustang and Bob Jane’s earlier ’68 notchback coupe version were front-runners from ’69 until the final year of the Improved Production formula in 1972.
Article by Mark Fogarty and sourced from Auto Action