With only two wins thus far in the 2009 season, Ford Motor Company has spent much of the year playing catch-up to Chevrolet, Toyota and even Dodge. The manufacturer – who weathered the economic storm much better than General Motors and Chrysler – seemed to have been caught off guard with the lack of success, especially following a year in which they scored eleven wins and one of their drivers was runner-up in the championship hunt.
After sweeping the season’s opening two weekends, Ford has fallen behind each of its competitors. Chevrolet leads the manufacturers in the win column with seventeen, followed by Toyota with nine and Dodge with three. In fact, this has been Ford’s worst showing since 1982, when they only scored two wins in thirty races. Granted, there are still five races left in the season, but time is running out for Ford on the 2009 season.
Understanding they are slightly behind to their competitors, director of Ford North America Motorsports Brian Wolfe announced Tuesday the new FR9 engine will make its debut on the high-banks at Talladega.
“We’re excited about it,” Wolfe explained. “The one thing is when you’ve had such a rough year as we have with so few wins, it’s always easy to point to one thing. A lot of fans and supporters have said, ‘We’ve got to get that new engine out there. It’s going to be really, really important to get us to win.’ But the reality of the situation is the current engine is either tied or above all the others for both peak power and average power over the operational range. So to jump in and say, ‘We’re going to throw the new engine out there,’ when we’re really good for fuel and power could have some unintended consequences. I know it looks like we’re really, really slow-walking this, but we want to make sure we’re getting the cars most competitive as quick as we can.”
Wolfe went on to explain Talladega is a perfect place to debut the new engine because power under the hood could give a Ford driver more of an advantage over a track such as Charlotte or California. With the cars so equal and bunched together in a pack on a restrictor plate track, a bit more power under the hood could provide the extra push needed to shove another blue oval across the finish line.
“There are significant differences,” Wolfe said describing restricted engines and non-restricted engines. “The engines have a much different stress level on them because you’re making a lot less power with the restricted motor than you’re making with an open motor. So it’s not so much the differences in having it ready or not, it’s when is there a reason to really put it out there. We think the restricted tracks, there are some benefits of the new architecture there to make the performance a little bit better than it would be with the current motor.”
In introducing this new engine, Wolfe explained Ford wants to ensure their unrestricted engine is ready to be debuted and will not be rushed into use. Arguing their engine is competitive against the competitors, Wolfe pointed out they want to ensure the introduction of the new engine has no “unintended consequences” and the switch to the new motor does not cost teams more than it should.
“The thing is, like anything else, it’s not only about making sure it’s durable and it’s going to win races and there are no unintended consequences, but the other thing we can’t lose track of is that the economic times are very, very tight,” Wolfe added. “The last thing we want to do is obsolete parts that are still good and still very competitive, so that’s another factor that also goes along with that. The current engine is very, very good. All of our competitors have their new architecture out there and our current motor is running the same power and same fuel economy as they are, so a new unrestricted motor isn’t going to give us another 10, 15, 30, 40 horsepower.”
Content with their current motor, it appears Ford is willing to take its time on introducing the unrestricted FR9 into NASCAR competition. Despite their struggles on the track this year, Ford feels confident the lack of wins has not been an issue under the hood. It has yet to be announced which drivers will have the new FR9 engine next week at Talladega.