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APRIL 19, 2004

Ford puts Champ Car on hold

The Ford Motor Company, which has been under considerable financial pressure in recent years, has tried to hold on to as much motorsport activity as possible in order to promote its products and is active in the NASCAR Nextel Cup, Busch Series and Craftsman Truck series. There is a low-budget World Rally Championship campaign which is run by Jost Capito's organisation in Cologne and the Jaguar F1 programme. In addition there is an Aston Martin programme under development with Prodrive although all the costs in that venture are being paid by Prodrive.

There are some who argue that Ford's involvement in Champ Cars does not make sense given the state of the championship and that it would be wiser for the company to jump ship and switch to the Indy Racing League where it would be in competition with Chevrolet, Honda and Toyota. That would be more difficult but also more rewarding and given that Ford technology is behind the successful Chevrolet IRL engine, there is no doubt that it makes a lot of sense for Ford to use its expertise for its own benefit rather than for the benefit of its rival.

At the weekend Ford's head of racing Dan Davis announced that the company will not be exercising its option to supply Cosworth XFE engines to the Champ Car World Series next year. This does not mean that the relationship is finished as both sides appear to want to negotiate a deal for the future, perhaps on different terms. But Davis says there is no need to hurry any decision.

"What Ford wants from racing is to sell more cars and trucks," Davis said. "If we see it happening through surf boarding or drifting and our participation helps, we'll be there."

Davis says that he intends to make a decision towards the end of the year. The current deal with Champ Car costs Ford almost nothing because the engines are tried and tested and there is no development work needed because Champ Car is in effect a one-make series.

The intention of both parties appears to be to continue.