We are are not alone in having a suspicion of anything but the most straightforward and basic of statistics. Having shrewdly chosen his variables, the clever statistician can, with disarming honesty, truthfulness and sincerity, usually produce figures to prove just about anything he wishes. Market research and public opinion polls fall into the same broad category, and we often wonder at the composition of “a fair cross-section” which can spawn profound statements that 63.9 per cent of our employed, car-owning, married population between the ages of 43 and 51 prefer cornflakes to porridge!
It was therefore with some surprise that we discovered that most of Ford’s annual motorsport press conference in December was devoted to the results of a substantial public-opinion survey which Ford had commissioned, covering such subjects as car buying and motor sporting preferences. The survey was conducted among 400 men aged between 18 and 54 who had bought a new car, and one surprising result was that, among this non-enthusiast group, motor racing and rallying were second only to football in popularity, ranking ahead of cricket, snooker, golf, boxing, tennis and horse racing, in that order. Strange, then, that horse racing attracts far greater TV and newspaper coverage than motorsports, yet is followed closely by only six per cent of the population (represented by the 400 interviewees), whilst less than a third take any interest in it at all. Among the random 400, Formula One racing was the most popular of motorsports, ahead of rallying, rallycross, saloon car racing, sports-car racing and one-make racing, although more felt that rallying provided the ordinary motorist with the greatest benefits. However, a separate survey among Britain’s motor clubs revealed that rallying was by far the most popular activity. Indeed 49 per cent listed rallying as their number one sport, whilst the highest figure achieved by any other was eight per cent for autotests.
Although Ford finished second in the 1988 World Rally Championship for Makes, with the year’s only non-Lancia win and other lesser places to its credit, the Sierra Cosworth can by no means be said to have posed a threat to the Delta Integrale. Apart from Didier Auriol’s win in Corsica, the two-wheel-drive car’s performances have never been spectacular, but in various national championships the story has been quite different. Ford drivers won the British, Irish, Dutch, French and Spanish series, which is no mean achievement. Understandably, it was not a Ford which won the Italian Championship!
Still without a car capable of matching the Delta and its potential rivals the Toyota Celica and the Mazda 323, all of them four-wheeldrive cars, Ford will be tackling only the occasional World Championship event in 1989, certainly not the series as a whole. But national competitors will again be supported, and this will mean outings in Corsica, Sanremo and the RAC, at least. To help privateers, Ford will arrange days when they can take their competition cars to Boreham for appraisal by experts and advice on preparation, whilst there will also be training sessions for mechanics and open days for drivers and their sponsors. GP