A Century of Ford Motorsport Success
OVER A CENTURY OF FORD MOTORSPORT SUCCESS
Ford’s involvement in motorsport began with Henry Ford’s first win in 1901historic victory in 1901 with his first racing car ‘Sweepstakes’ in a 25 mile race on a Michigan dirt track. The racer, with an 8.6 litre 26bhp engine, managed 72mph and Ford’s success attracted financial backers who provided the support for developing his car manufacturing business.
In 1913, Ford brought down the shutters on its racing programme for a few years – until after the first war, in fact. There were various rationales but the official line at the time was that Ford “is primarily a car for all people, and not intended for the speed specialist.”
Fortunately for motorsport, there were always plenty of speed specialists ready to capitalise on the inherent strengths of the car for all people, and thus develop the marque into a name that would be respected in motorsport for over a century.
In the post-World War I boom years in America, the Model T was the obvious choice for young mechanically minded men with a few dollars to spend. It was the ingenuity of such backyard mechanics and the adaptability of the "Tin Lizzie" that fuelled the growth of racing. On hundreds of dirtracks across the country, the
Model T – often with a powerful Frontenac 16-valve cylinder head – reigned supreme.
The 1920s saw Ford-powered cars racing creditably at Indianapolis and a simultaneous post-war increase in European motorsport activity. There were two Monte Carlo rally victories in the 1930s, the decade that also saw the arrival of that much-loved icon of Ford engineering, the flathead V8. This engine provided reliable power to competitors in every form of racecar, from trans-continental saloons and to sprint and speedway racers, to and from hot rods toand rally machines.
Ford's motorsport effort intensified in the 1950s and 1960s. Wins with wins in the East African Safari and the Monte Carlo rallies, in British saloon car racing, and in the first high-profile American NASCAR saloon-car events were only a prelude to what followed.events.
In 1956, Ford won its first NASCAR Grand National Manufacturers' Championship. V8-engined Fords won nine titles in the next 14 years – seven of these in succession – and was dominant throughout the 1960s with its Galaxies. Later came the Thunderbirds and, since 1998, Taurus saloons, continuinghave continued to uphold Ford’s status as one of the leading players in this high-profile branch of motorsport.
The Le Mans 24-hHour Eendurance rRace, arguably one of the sternest tests of competitive men and machinery provided Ford GT40s with four consecutive victories from 1966 to 1969. Ford-engined AC Cobra sports cars won the World Sports Car Championship in 1965, while countless saloon car racing successes for Mustangs and Falcons all reinforced the image of Ford’s dependability and victory on the racetrack.
Single-seater racing haswas also been strongly supported by the company, with Ford road-car engines being developed with Cosworth for Formula Junior, F3, and F2. Ford’s dominance in these formulae was reinforced with the introduction in 1967 of a new single-seater 'training formula'.
In 1967 Ford founded a new single-seater training formulain Europe to start young drivers up the ladder to fame. , Formula Ford is now more than 30 years old. Racing superstars Mika Hakkinen, Johnny Herbert, James Hunt, Emerson Fittipaldi, Jody Scheckter and many others learned their craft in Formula Ford, which is still the world's most popular racing 'starter-formula'.
The first Formula Ford cars used standard 1.6-litre Cortina engines. L, later FF2000 machines used 2-litre Sierra-type overhead-camshaft power units, and modern FF single-seaters are powered by the renowned 16-valve 1.8-litre ZetecDuratec engines which are used in the best-selling Ford Focus and Mondeo family cars..
In 1967, Ford (again with Cosworth)and Cosworth made the logical move into Grand Prix racing, by with introducing an F1 engine. Making its race-winning debut in the Dutch Grand Prix, the Ford-Cosworth DFV V8 engine developed its own legend, and became the most successful F1 power unit of all time.
DFV engines won 155 World Championship F1 races in 16 years, plus hundreds of other events. By the 1970s, the DFV was so dominant that Ford-powered cars regularly won more than ten GPs every season. In 1973, every one of the 15 F1 races was won by DFV-powered cars. Legendary characters such. as Mario Andretti, Jim Clark, Emerson Fittipaldi, Graham Hill, James Hunt, Alan Jones and Sir Jackie Stewart all used DFV-powered cars to gain their World Drivers' Championship crowns.
Modified versions of the DFV were also used to win the Le Mans 24 hHour race in 1976 and 1980, while the turbocharged DFX version made its name in North America. In the mid-1970s the DFX became the most successful power unit in CART/Indycar racing, where it ruled the roost for nearly 15 years.
As in F1, Ford DFX-powered cars – McLarens, Penskes, Marches and Lolas – were all-conquering, and with an unparalleled achievement took over America's most famous motor race, winning every Indy 500 from 1978 to 1988. Contemporary American legends such as Mario Andretti, A.J.Foyt, Rick Mears, Bobby Rahal, Bobby and Al Unser all confirmed their glittering reputations in racecars powered by Ford..
Turbo -charged V8s have continued to win championships in the CART series. The XB engine was used in 1993 by 'rookie' Nigel Mansell to win the PPG Championship at his very first attempt, and was also used by Jacques Villleneuve to win the series in 1995. For 2000 a further derivative, the lightweight XF V8, helped Ford to win the CART Engine Manufacturers' Championship crown..
Cosworth went on to develop many more successful race -car engines on Ford's behalf. The narrow-angle HB V8 succeeded the DFV, its career culminating in six victories in the 1993 F1 season, five of these going to Ayrton Senna's McLaren-Ford cars. A new V8 engine, the 3.5-litre Zetec-R V8, was used by Benetton-Ford in 1994, when Michael Schumacher won eight of the season's 16 races, capturing thehis first Drivers' Championship for the first timetitle.
Ford and Cosworth then designed a series of 3.0-litre V10s, . the latest now being for the exclusive use of Jaguar-Cosworth. The latest 800bhp-plus power units are acknowledged as some of the lightest and most powerful engines in F1.
After 40 years of close co-operation with the company, not only in race engine but in road-car engine development, Ford purchased Cosworth Racing in 1998. The , introduction of ultra-light V10 F1 engines for Stewart-Ford and then Jaguar-Cosworth, are, were the first products of this liaison.
During the 1960s, and away from the glitz of single-seater racing, Ford developed its production cars to compete in, and win, in prestigious races and rallies. Available in large numbers, all the cars were powerful, robustly reliable, and sold at attractive prices: many are collectors' cars to this day. .
All over the world, cars like the Lotus-Cortina MkI began beating heavier,
large-engined machinery on the race track. The Lotus-Cortina MkI won its first British Saloon Car Championship in 1964, with F1 ace Jim Clark, and in 1965 the
Lotus-Cortina MkI also dominated the European saloon car scene, where Sir John Whitmore won hillclimbs, sprint races and long-distance events, and the Championship itself. V8-engined American Galaxies, Mustangs and Falcons also became regular winners in sprint races and in marathon 10-day events like the Tour de France..
Ford’s first superfast Escort was the Twin-Cam,. which with its This car and its RS-badged successors the the Escort RS1600s and RS1800s became ultra-successful race and rally cars, . Not only did Escorts winning long-distance Touring Car races such alikes the Nurburgring 6six--Hhour and the Kyalami 1000km, but they also became the world's most successful rally cars..
At the same time the 'Car You Always Promised Yourself', the versatile Ford Capri, became Europe's most successful racing saloon. Capri RS2600s won the European Touring Car Challenge twice –twice, in 1971 and 1972 , – and their successor, the RS3100, was the fastest saloon car of all in 1974 and 1975. Three-litre engined Capris also won Belgium's prestigious 24-Hour race three times in succession, took National Championships all over Europe and in terms of victories were Britain's most successful saloons throughout the 1970s..
For more than 30 years, until the last-ever 'works Escorts' competed in the Rally of Great Britain in 1998, they set the pace all round the world. Heroes such as Roger Clark, Hannu Mikkola, Bjorn Waldegard, Ari Vatanen and Carlos Sainz all made their names in Ford cars, which inspired thousands of private owners to make Escorts their choice.
Outstanding new Fords followed the Escorts in the 1970s, many of them on the race tracks. German-prepared Capri RS2600s twice won the European Touring Car Championship - later, the mighty turbocharged Sierra RS Cosworths swept all before them.
The Sierra RS500 Cosworth enjoyed such a spectacular circuit-racing career, winning so many races and Championships that regulations were eventually re-written to blunt its success. These saloons won the 1987 World Touring Car Championship and the 1988 European Championship, and these 550bhp/2-litre cars carried on winning all round the world until the early 1990s. The Sierra RS Cosworths also won rallies, especially tarmac events, while later four-wheel-drive versions won rally championships all around the world. .
The Escort RS Cosworth was a further evolution of that remarkable Escort chassis. For the 1990s, Ford developed it not only as a stunning road car, but as a successful rally car. After winning five World Championship rallies in 1993 – its first season – it went on to win the 1994 Monte Carlo rally and gave rise to the Escort WRC of the late 1990s.
As European saloon car racing regulations turned towards 'Super Tourers' (for
2-litre cars with front-wheel-drive) Ford refined the V6-engined Mondeo into another race-winner. With Paul Radisich at the wheel, the Ford Mondeo won the World Touring Car Challenge twice in succession, – in 1993 and 1994 –1994, and ended a glorious career by claimingclaimed 1st, 2nd and 3rd places1-2-3 in the 2000 British Touring Car Championship.
Today, Ford’s premier global activity is the 2001 FIA World Rally Championship, using a WRC version of the Ford Focus. with a trio of Focus WRC cars contesting the 14-round series. In its first years of competition tThe Focus has already won five12 World Championship events, including the gruelling Acropolis and East African Safari rounds. With Colin McRae, Carlos Sainz and Francois Delecour as team drivers, Ford is a strong contender for title honours. McRae's string of three consecutive victories in the Argentina, Cyprus and Acropolis events has been one of the highlights of the season so far. .
In the white heat of 21st Century motorsport represented by Formula 1, NASCAR, CART racing and World Championship rallies, Ford continues to win racesevents and championships, setting new standards every season.
From Formula 1 with Cosworth and JaguarJordan Ford and the prestigious CART/Champcar series with Cosworth XF turbocharged engines, to theand from the hugely-popular NASCAR Winston Cup series in North America (where 5.9-litre/750bhp Taurus saloons won many of the 34 races in 2000), to and top-class World Rrally Cchampionships in Europe and the Middle East with seven Focus WRC cars, Ford will continuecontinues to seek motorsport supremacy in the new millennium.