Ford's Sabbatical

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It is just over 20 years since Ford’s fortunes were rejuvenated by the introduction of the o.h.v. Ford Anglia. Since then the Dagenham end of the Detroit-based company has won just about everything worthwhile in racing and rallying, a motor sporting policy which has transformed the company’s image and sales. Most of the successes have come from the Anglia’s successor, the Escort, introduced in 1968. Now the Escort is nearing the end of the line, shortly to be superseded by the front-wheel-drive Erica Eurobox.

Ford see this major product change as a sensible time to stand back to take stock of the situation and in this first year of a new decade the Competitions Department at Boreham will take a sabbatical, devoting its time to development of existing and future models. So the 1979 RAC Rally saw the last appearance of the works Escorts in international rallying. There is nothing like going out with a blaze of glory; that climactic season was one of the Escort’s most successful, with outright victories in five international events, leading to the World Rally Championship for Manufacturers, with works driver Waldegard salting the Drivers’ title in the year of its inception. Wins in three British events brought Ford the Manufacturers’ category of the British Open Rally Championship and many other titles, including Malcolm Wilson’s second consecutive Castrol/Autorsport Championship.

The list of the Escort’s major world-wide successes in 1979 handed out at Ford’s annual Motorsport Press Conference in January covered no less than 12 sheets (interspersed with some good results for the Capri 3.0S), a record which illustrates just how difficult sink Ford will have to find a replacement competition car. The Escort has been a winner since the word “go”, with Barrie Lee achieving a memorable victory in its televised competition debut, in a rallycross in 1968. There is little doubt that this most successful rally car of all time has many more victories ahead of it in private hands.

The Escort competition programme was but one of the perspicacious decisions taken by Ford in the 1960s. Another was the decision to back Keith Duckworth with development of the DFV Formula One engine. In 1979 the DFV won eight of 16 Grands Prix, four of them with the throttle slides controlled by Alan Jones, and notched up its 125th win. What more can one say? For “Ford’s decisions” one should read “Walter Hayes’ decisions”, for it was he who was largely responsible. Hayes was uncharacteristically absent from the Conference, being based now in the USA as the first British vice-president on the Ford main board. With the Ford name predominating in almost every form of British motorsport, from Club driving tests to Aurora Formula One, one cannot help but wonder what the state of the game might have been had it not been for Hayes’ commercially sound enthusiasm.

Boreham’s sabbatical doesn’t mean a complete withdrawal from motorsport in 1980. At the Conference, Competitions Manager Peter Ashcroft and Director of Public Relations Stuart Turner outlined plans.

In racing, Ford will continue to support Gordon Spice and Stuart Graham, who will man 3-litre Capris in the Tricentrol British Saloon Car Championship. “Mr. Mini” himself, 1979 British Saloon Car Champion Richard Longman, has been lured away from the Leyland marque to drive and prepare a 1.6 Fiesta for the Championship and to run a 1.3-litre version for another erstwhile Mini driver, Alan Curnow. Boreham mechanics will prepare a Fiesta for 1979 Faberge Fiesta Championship winner Geunda Eadie to run in the Tricentrol series.

As previously announced in Motor Sport, a Fiesta Racing Championship will replace the old Debenhams Escort series. The new Championship, jointly sponsored by Debenhams and Ford’s Rallye Sport Division, will be for 1.6-litre Fiestas (a version sold in the USA, and likely to be available in the UK sometime this year), prepared to slightly modified Production Car Racing Regulations.

On the international front, Ford of Cologne will campaign a pair of 800 kg. turbocharged, space-frame Zakspeed Capris in the German Group 5 Championship. Klaus Ludwig, 1979 German Group 5 Champion in a Kremer Porsche, will have a 2-litre, 600 b.h.p. version and former Champion Harald Ertl will run a 1.4-litre car.

In rallying, Malcolm Wilson will receive works support to contest the British Open Rally Championship in an Escort RS. Tim Bose will drive a Boreham built and supported, Haynes of Maidstone-run. Group 5, 2.0-litre Fiesta in the Castrol/Autosport Championship as part of Ford’s development programme. As part of Turner’s quest for another Pat Moss, Louise Aitken, the young Scot who dominated the final rally roads of the 1979 Faberge Championship, will run a Fiesta with support from Boreham.

Barry Lee will remain faithful to Escorts, with Boreham backing, in his Hot Rod programme, but in the European Rallycross Championship Ford Competitions will support a Fiesta for Trevor Hopkins.

Turner has always been a firm supporter of what he terms “the grass roots of motorsport”, the local Motor clubs, and has directed part of Ford’s 1980 budget in their direction. Three new training films, “A Ford Guide to Motorsport Marshalling”, “A Ford Guide to Rally Driving” and “A Ford Guide to Co-driving” are aimed at educating club members in those various “arts”. Ford will co-operate with the RAC Motorsport Training Trust to help train marshals, using the film, a new book on event organisation and sponsorship of a series of training seminars. Motor clubs will be offered free publicity material to help with membership drives.

A question and answer session gave Keith Duckworth a chance to bang on about his theories for a new Formula One engine formula in the light of the energy crisis. The man behind the Cosworth DFV feels that “I’m using my talents to develop engines which are against the will of the world . . . motor racing should speed development of energy saving engines, but turbocharged engines are more fuel wasting than the current normally aspirated engines.”

Duckworth considers that the regulations encouraging a quest for more power per litre are against the interests of the world and energy conservation. The suggested Duckworth formula is based on power per litre of fuel consumed, with no swept volume capacity limit. “A fuel flow restriction of 20 c.c.s. per sec. would allow 430 b.h.p.,” he asserted, “give motor racing a good image and give a better feedback to the development of more economical passenger cars.”

Duckworth is continuing to campaign for his formula. “But most people running motorsport can’t see past the ends of their noses.”

Meanwhile, Cosworth are soldiering on to keep the DFV abreast of the current situation. “We hope that the unreliability of the turbo Renault will allow the DFV to win a share of the races. Other people running 1½-litre turbos are likely be beset by the problems that come with them.

C.R.

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