While currently supporting a pair of factory DP entires in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, Ford hasn’t ruled out a return to the global stage amid talks of a new-for-2017 worldwide Prototype platform and GT convergence.
Ford Racing director Jamie Allison has voiced his support of the FIA, ACO and IMSA’s plan to develop a single set of prototype regulations that would be eligible for the TUDOR Championship, FIA World Endurance Championship, as well as the European and Asian Le Mans Series.
The platform, widely believed to be an evolution of the current LMP2 regulations, with added safety measures and cost containment, could be formally announced by as early as this June.
“Whenever you have a platform that’s applicable to be raced around the world, the scale is so appetizing,” Allison told Sportscar365 in an exclusive interview.
“One, as a manufacturer to make a product available to everybody around the world, but more importantly, for competitors to know that they can race what they’ve purchased, or collaborated with a manufacturer, in Europe, Asia or the U.S.
“Looking at the world of prototypes and having a common set of rules, whether it’s in FIA, ACO or IMSA, that’s a laudable goal to shoot after as a stakeholder in the series.”
Ford debuted its new production-based EcoBoost DP engine at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January, with the 3.5-liter V6 turbo powerplant propelling Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marino Franchitti, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas to victory in last weekend’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
While Allison said the immediate focus is on continued engine development for DP competition, he revealed the EcoBoost could be used in different sports car racing platforms in the future, but giving no exact timeline.
The engine, for instance, would fit easily fit into the current LMP2 regulations, with a Roush Yates-tuned version having already been installed into a car, run by Project Libra as a privateer effort.
“As we endeavor into customer application with the EcoBoost motor, then it will find its home in appropriate places,” Allison said. “For now, we’re literally just focused on developing it in a factory setting. And right now, that’s in the DPs.
“But if you ask me how it turns out a year from now, it could be in a different place. We’ve shown in the past that we have a wider embrace of those who want to race Fords.
“I just want to make sure that when we make it available to customer offerings that it’s had the diligence of a season behind it with the factory, so it’s fully ready for customer application.”
While Allison would not confirm reports of a factory Ford Mustang program having been evaluated for GTE, but later scrapped, he admitted the ACO and FIA’s convergence talks for a common GT base platform has also been appealing to the Detroit automaker.
“Having that global application of these specifications, especially when Mustangs will be available globally, it gives us that scale,” he said. “All of the development we put into one activity, to make sure that effort is applied around the world as the world races to common standards.”
Ford has previously supported customer Mustangs in various European championships, including the FR500C and a version built for the initial set of GT3 regulations in 2006.
As for either of the potential or rumored programs leading toward a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the Blue Oval, Allison has also remained tight-lipped, but admitted it’s not at the top of the manufacturer’s priority at this given time.
“I went to Le Mans last year,” Allison said. “If you have a shred of Ford enthusiasm in you, you know that one of the most iconic moments of Ford history happened at those hallowed grounds. To show up at Le Mans and to see our brand on display… A couple of chicanes are named after us.
“Clearly there is a strong heritage between Ford Racing and Le Mans… What the future brings, it could be a function of circumstances.
“For now, we’re focused on IMSA DP and we value the fact that the series has the adaptability and connection to run in some classes that are to international rules… As we develop an application for those, then teams around the world can race around the world from the same specification.”