MUSTANG GETS BACK ON TRACK
A FORD Mustang will return to the Bathurst 1000 for the first time in 33 years after Ford Australia announced it will rejoin the Supercar championship next year.
Campaigned by the Dick Johnson Racing Team Penske and Tickford Racing in next year's championship, the Mustang will start the season at the Adelaide 500.
For Ford racing legend Johnson, it is a reunion of sorts, as he drove a Mustang to fourth place in the 1986 Bathurst 1000 under Australian Touring Car Championship regulations.
Ford withdrew from Supercars in 2015.
The return to the track was announced in tandem with the launch of Ford Australia's new performance division, which will sell sportier versions of the Mustang, Fiesta and Ranger.
The brand has resisted calls from Supercar teams to allow the Mustang to race in Australia but local boss Graeme Whickman said he launched the plan after regulations were amended to let two-doors race in the series.
“There’s been a lot of speculation and calls for Mustang to be on the track, and as a Ford Performance model that’s raced around the world, it's fitting that Australia's most popular sports car should be on our race tracks,” Whickman says.
The Mustang was a familiar sight at Australian racetracks in the 1960s when Ian Geoghegan won three successive titles piloting the original Pony Car in 1967-69.
Alan Moffatt then had an amazing strike rate with the Trans-Am Mustang in the improved production ATCC, winning 101 of 151 races from 1969 to 1974.
Its return will add lustre to the performance brand, which will fettle the Ranger Raptor dual-cab ute that goes on sale late this year and the Focus ST hot hatch due in 2019.
On arrival in Australian showrooms in 2016, the Mustang immediately became our most popular sports car. Ford has sold more than 1600 examples so far this year, accounting for nearly half of the under-$80,000 segment’s sales.
The Ranger has also been a standout success for the brand. Last year it was the second-best selling vehicle in the country, more than filling the gap left by the locally made Falcon.
The Ranger Raptor will join the Mustang on the track next year as the official recovery vehicle for the Supercars series.
The Fiesta ST uses a 1.5litre three-cylinder (147kW/290Nm) and six-speed manual gearbox to drive the front wheels, making it an obvious competitor for the Volkswagen Polo GTI.
Ford Performance aims to fill our appetite for performance cars; Australia is among the leading markets for Mercedes-AMG and BMW M performance cars and VW’s Golf GTI makes up about a quarter of Golf sales.
Ford Performance uses using lightweight components, aerodynamic kits and engine enhancements to produce sportier versions of regular road-going cars.
Dick Johnson said the Mustang deal is “music to my ears... it’s great to be back in the Ford fold, and we'll continue to ensure that we give Ford – and its millions of fans – something to cheer about”.