The lure of full factory support is what triggered the seismic shift of Walkinshaw Andretti United to Ford for the Gen3 era in Supercars.
After losing its long-time position as the Holden Racing Team to Triple Eight Race Engineering, the former Commodore flagship team went looking for a full factory connection for Gen3.
There were several other approaches – believed to be BMW and Jaguar – before a successful tie-up with Ford.
Under the new deal, Chaz Mostert and Nick Percat will race in a pair of all-new Ford Mustangs from the start of the 2023 season.
The announcement of the WAU-Ford tie-up comes right from the top and is confirmed by Jim Farley, the global CEO of the Ford Motor Company, today in a joint announcement that includes the principals of WAU and the head of Ford Australia, Andrew Birkic.
“This is a really important series for us. This is a really important moment for the company,” says Farley.
“We want to put ourselves in the best position to compete for championships. This is really not a better OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) to be aligned with,” says Zak Brown, one of the owners of WAU.
“It’s all about building a stronger team. This will take us to a new level,” says Birkic.
“We want to win races. We’re very unapologetic about that. But we also want a team that’s stable.
“We want teams that are super competitive. And really connected to the fan base.”
Ryan Walkinshaw, who talks about his father Tom racing a Ford Capri in the 1970s, accepts that some WAU fans will be very unhappy about the red-to-blue move.
“It still feels a little bit weird. It hasn’t hit home,” Walkinshaw says.
“You expect some passionate response. Disappointment. Anger. (But) the vast majority of our fans will follow us because of who we are.”
He confirms that the factory backing from Ford is the vital ingredient for WAU’s future in Supercars.
“We’ve been exploring what we needed to become a factory team again for a couple of years.
“It’s not the fact that we fell out with GM. We wanted to make a change. We wanted to be a factory team and wanted a partnership where we felt we were wanted.
“In the end we have several options, but this was the one that felt right.”
Despite the new-tie up, Birkic says there is no road-car tie-up planned between Ford and the Walkinshaw group in Australia.
Ford Australia confirms that it will continue with its existing Mustang teams, led by Dick Johnson Racing as the official homologation team for the Gen3 Mustang.
WAU team boss Bruce Stewart says the upcoming switch will not affect the team’s current program with is ZB Commodores.
“We enter a new era with Gen3 and we’re proudly seeing Holden to the end of its time,” he says.
“I guess there are no excuses. Our expectation is that we keep pushing forward. We are moving forward. This is another bolster.”
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