Time is running out for the Ford Mustang to join the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship in 2018, admits Team Penske president Tim Cindric.
The American giant expects to continue with its current Falcons in 2018 unless the Mustang gets the green light from Ford Australia within the next month.
Penkse's Shell V-Power Racing and fellow Ford Supercars team Prodrive have collaborated on feasibility studies into a Mustang program, which needs Ford’s blessing to go ahead.
The Blue Oval withdrew its support from Supercars racing at the end of 2015 but continues to enjoy significant success thanks to the two privately funded squads running Falcons.
“At this point I don’t see that we will be running anything different from what we have on track today,” Cindric told Supercars.com of his team’s 2018 plans.
"There has been a lot of discussion about Mustangs and all that stuff.
“I wouldn’t say it’s 100 percent over but at this point in time it’ll probably be the same as what we’re running now (FG X Falcons).
“I think the window is closing very quickly for Mustang. Anything beyond May I think becomes unrealistic to do a good job.”
Team Penske president Tim Cindric
Cindric affirmed that Penske has made its desire to introduce the Mustang known to Ford bosses in the United States, where Penske spearheads its NASCAR program.
Currently the two Supercars teams have only an intellectual property deal with Ford that allows them to use the Falcon body and Blue Oval logos.
“It’s no surprise to anybody what we’d like to do and what the category would like to do,” said Cindric when asked of discussion with Ford in the US.
“But this is a region where they rely on the region to tell them what they feel is best for this area.
“I don’t see any situation there where the US is going to dictate what happens here.”
Cindric is however confident that the other hurdle to a Mustang Supercar – whether the body will fit over the current control chassis – could be overcome.
Penske’s Supercars arsenal includes competition director Ludo Lacroix, whose experience makes him the perfect man to lead the development of the car should it ever be approved.
“The PRA guys have dabbled in to see if it’s feasible or not and we’ve compared notes with them,” Cindric said of the work that has already been done.
“Ludo knows where they’ve been, we’ve had open dialogue with those guys about what we’d do and how it’d fit if it ever happens.
Shell V-Power Racing competition director Ludo Lacroix
“I think the answer to that (whether the body fits) is probably, but how competitive that would be and what the compromises for it would be are yet to be seen.
“We haven’t spent the time to figure that out because it’s not something that’s going to produce results for us in 2017, but I would be confident that where there’s a will there’s a way.
“It’s important enough for the category and our team that if we got to that point, in racing you always find a way.”
While all the focus has been on whether the Mustang will replace the Falcon, Penske has ties with most of the world’s major auto makers and is ‘all ears’ for other options.
“Our position hasn’t changed,” said Cindric when asked whether the Supercars team will stick it out with Ford in the longer term if factory backing is not forthcoming.
“We have a very good relationship with Ford in the US through our NASCAR program but we have a lot of relationships with a lot of OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers).
“We run Chevrolet in the IndyCar program which is obviously Holden, but there’s quite a few other manufacturers that we’ve raced with over the years.
“Ford is our first choice for sure, but we’re all ears for what the best step forward is.”