Ford revival focuses on hard work

Reid, Menu and Rydell nurture hopes of ending barren period for Blue Oval

Ford is easily the most successful manufacturer in the history of the British Touring Car Championship, but the last few seasons have been bleak for the Blue Oval. That is all set to change now; with six rounds of the 2000 title race to run, the top three drivers in the points are the three works Ford drivers.

Ford is easily the most successful manufacturer in the history of the British Touring Car Championship, but the last few seasons have been bleak for the Blue Oval. That is all set to change now; with six rounds of the 2000 title race to run, the top three drivers in the points are the three works Ford drivers.

Vauxhall's Yvan Muller and Jason Plato are still in the frame, but the odds are on a Ford driver - Anthony Reid, Alain Menu or Rickard Rydell - to take the title.

The turnaround in Ford fortunes started with a change in approach from the Ford executives who sign off the budgets. Reid saw it when he chose to leave Nissan at the end of 1998 and join them. It looked a pretty disastrous decision last year, when Reid watched the man who had replaced him at Nissan, Laurent Aiello, win the title, but Reid always felt he had made the right decision, saying: "The way the Ford marketing people looked at it was that they were not going to spend the money any more unless it was to win."

It was a big change from the way Ford had appeared to be going about their BTCC business in the years immediately before. A succession of seasons were spoiled when budgets were committed too late and over-complicated programme structures were set up - with one company responsible for building cars, another for running them through the season and a third for buildingengines.

At the end of 1998 the approach changed. Responsibility for both building the cars and running them was handed - crucially for a continuous two-year period - to Prodrive, the Banbury firm which also runs the immensely successful Subaru world rally championship programme that took Colin McRae to the top and is currently giving Richard Burns his run at the drivers' championship title.

Last year the Mondeo won twice - it was a nearly car, but not a top contender. The Prodrive technical director, David Lapworth, the man responsible for both the Ford and Subaru programmes, explained how his team have transformed the Mondeo into the best car on the grid in 2000. "The real secret has been hard work. Last year it had to be right first hit. The deal was put together relatively late so there was no time for deliberation. When we look at the '99 car they had done a very, very good job, but it just missed the mark in a few areas. Over last winter the combination of a very methodical scientific approach and a serious amount of hard work just meant that lots of little details and one or two significant changes completely transformed the car."

In simple terms there has been a slight improvement in the chassis, a bigger one in aerodynamic efficiency and a really significant one in the performance of the engine, which Prodrive took responsibility for at the end of 1999.

A series of run-ins with the BTCC technical scrutineers leave it open for detractors to say that Ford and Prodrive have pushed too far in the universal motorsport quest to take technical rules to the limit. Reid denies that.

"They've played the rules to the limit, but in my view haven't overstepped them. We had no problems last year, but then we weren't real players. It'salways the leading team thatattracts the flack."

He adds: "When Ford puts its mind to something, it's got the resources make it happen." The snipers would say that a vast budget is foremost among those resources, but Lapworth says not. "It [the budget] is less than it has been and it is less than the budget that we know big teams have operated on in the past. What I suspect we have got more of than anyone else is man-hours and effort. I don't think I have ever seen a group of people work as consistently hard as the race team did in the last six months."

One thing that most involved in the BTCC, including Reid and Lapworth, do agree is that they would put money on the winner of the drivers' title this year being a man wearing Ford overalls. Reid, Menu and Rydell are close together at the top of the standings. They all badly want to win it, but Reid has his own particular reason, centred on the late, great, Jim Clark. Clark won this title in a Ford Lotus Cortina in 1964 (between his two Formula One World Championships in '63 and '65). "He went to Loretto school and so did I," explains Reid. "It was his career and the connection with Loretto which got me into racing in the first place and It's been my secret dream to emulate his feat."

Lapworth insists there are no team orders and the answer to which Ford driver will take the prize is unlikely to come until the last round at Silverstone on 16 September.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
News
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
News
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas