Ford drivers may lose their factory backing but they can still expect plenty of fan support, V8 Supercars boss James Warburton says.
There were fears of a fan backlash after Ford confirmed they would not support the category from 2016 just days before the season finale in Sydney.
While saddened by the news, Warburton believed Ford fans would simply follow drivers in the wake of the manufacturer’s withdrawal.
He said leading Ford driver Mark Winterbottom – who sits second in the championship standings – was a classic example of someone Blue Oval fans would support regardless of the car he drove.
“You’ve got to remember the drivers, they are the stars – they’ve got big personalities,” he told Fox Sports.
“Mark Winterbottom has an enormous amount of fans.
“People love Frosty.
“So what will he drive in the future? I imagine the fans would go with that.”
The writing was on the wall for Ford’s withdrawal after the manufacturer revealed plans in 2013 to close its Australian plants by October 2016 and cease production of its Falcon.
Still, Blue Oval fans vented their spleen on social media once the news became official on Monday.
Ford Performance Racing (FPR) is the only factory-backed team while the manufacturer also assists Dick Johnson Racing (DJR) on a parts supply agreement.
Six Ford Falcons will contest the 2015 season – FPR’s four entries plus single vehicles from Super Black Racing and DJR Team Penske featuring two-time series champion Marcos Ambrose.
“It would be nice to know if it was about how we performed on track but unfortunately it is a business decision away from the track that has made them head down this route,” CEO of FPR – winner of the last two Bathurst 1000 races – Tim Edwards said.
It is believed Ford’s financial support will be so minimal next year that FPR may revert back to their legal name – Prodrive Racing Australia.
“The motoring industry is going through a pretty traumatic time, and you have to move with the times,” Warburton said.
“Ford’s market share is not great. It’s the lowest sales year they have ever had on record.
“I don’t think this will help their sales. It certainly won’t from the V8 Supercars’ point of view.”
V8 Supercars hope to soon reveal new rules for the 2017 season that they hope will encourage support from other manufacturers, potentially opening up the category to two-door cars and engines other than V8s.
“There are two or three in particular we would encourage to come into the sport and that’s where our focus has got to be,” Warburton said.