Ford thanks departing Winterbottom

  • Repco Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 03/11/2018
  • By Stefan Bartholomaeus

Ford Australia has publicly thanked Mark Winterbottom for his contribution to the Blue Oval’s Supercars fortunes over the last 13 seasons with Tickford Racing.

Winterbottom’s impending departure from Tickford was announced on Thursday, with a switch to a Triple Eight-built Team 18 Holden now expected, but yet to be confirmed.

The Winterbottom-Ford link is the longest current driver-manufacturer relationship in Supercars, stretching back to the 37-year-old’s karting days.

Winterbottom’s exit from the Ford fold comes as its long-awaited Mustang debuts in 2019, replacing the ageing Falcon.

“From all of us at Ford Australia, we want to thank Mark Winterbottom for racing with Tickford Racing and Ford for the last 13 seasons of Supercars,” read the Twitter message.

“38 race wins, 117 podiums, 36 pole positions, 2013 Bathurst winner and 2015 championship winner.

“Thanks for the good times!”

A 20-year-old Winterbottom won the Ford Kart Stars program in 2001, earning him a scholarship to progress to Formula Ford the following year.

He then moved to what is now the Dunlop Super2 Series in 2003 with Stone Brothers Racing, taking the crown in an AU Falcon.

Winterbottom's 2003 title winning Super2 Falcon

Winterbottom’s main game debut also came that year with SBR and Ford, tackling the Sandown and Bathurst endurance races in a BA.

With no room in SBR’s full-time line-up, during its Marcos Ambrose/Russell Ingall era, Winterbottom progressed to the main game in Larkham Motor Sport Falcons, driving there for two years.

He moved to Tickford Racing – then the factory-backed Ford Performance Racing – in 2006, beginning a partnership that yielded the 2013 Bathurst 1000 and ’15 Supercars title.

A Ford fan favourite, Winterbottom’s defection to a Holden, should it take place as expected, will be the one of higher-profile switches in Supercars history.

Winterbottom and Tickford celebrating the 2015 title

While Winterbottom says he has no deal done for 2019 and has options to choose from, he was coy on Friday when asked if he wants to continue the relationship with Ford.

“It’s been 16 years at Ford, with Larko’s and the DVS (Super2), but sometimes… you have to wait and see, just evaluate it and see,” he said.

“But we’ll find out, I guess, in the future what ends up happening.

“They all look the same from the inside, but there is a lot of emotion to different brands, the fans, stuff like that; it’s a very passionate sport, so time will tell.”

Jamie Whincup, who went from Ford to Holden in 2010 with Triple Eight, applauded Winterbottom’s “big call”, saying “he’s just got to ride out” any negative fan reaction over the switch.

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