Wolfe chats it up with Mustang racer Michael Matarazzo.
MM&FF: Like all other areas of the company, you're doing more with fewer people. How does that reduction in personnel affect the parts catalog program?
Wolfe: Let me offer a couple of perspectives on that. We are Ford Racing, and we are a part of Ford. Where we add the greatest value for Ford enthusiasts is where we've been able to work with production applications, and build modifications of production parts, evolving or modifying them. That was at the zenith of Ford Racing. As Ford itself has gotten out of the vertical integration of every part and piece of every car, relying more on outside suppliers, the access to production parts to modify what we have has shrunk. So that has changed our focus. What can we can do to best serve our enthusiast customers? That has been to focus on crate engines, performance crate engines, and engine parts. For the last few years, we have focused on performance packs, parts, and pieces available through the dealers that the enthusiast can add to his car after he buys it. This helps us be more in line with our dealers and it helps Ford promote high-end performance vehicles. Last year, Ford Racing was responsible for producing and selling more than 10,000 modified Mustangs, all the Shelby GTs, all the Shelby GTAs, and this year the King of the Road. All these modified, derivative Mustangs were built from Ford Racing performance parts. The calibrations for the performance packs that enabled the performance modifications were done by my calibration department. My team created the affordable flashing tool that comes with every performance pack, that enables the user to download a Ford Racing calibration. So, while Ford's business and market share has gone down in recent years, our business has grown 50 percent over the last four years, primarily fueled by performance packs on street cars and a focus on crate engines.
MM&FF: Over the last couple of years, Ford has broken new ground on several levels by offering complete, turnkey Mustang race cars for sale to the general public, something that no other major car company has done. Can you tell us about the status of that program?
Wolfe: We have the FR500S spec racer, the basic 300hp package, for the Miller Mustang Challenge Cup series. We have the earlier FR500C, a 400hp Cammer-based package, which has been running in the Grand-Am Koni Challenge since 2005. The FR500 GT3 runs in FIA GT3 and GT4 competition in Europe. According to the new published rules, it will also be eligible for GT2 in FIA and ALMS, which makes them eligible to race at Le Mans. We won GT4 in Europe last year and we're running in First Place this year, the same package as the GT3 Cup over here. The Ford GT with the FIA engine package has won the official national series and has won every race in Brazil and Germany this year. And every one is raced privately, with purchased cars, engines, and parts. We don't sponsor any of that.
MM&FF: So, you're quietly back in international sports car and endurance racing, racing against BMW, Porsche, Maserati, Nissan, Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Lotus?
Wolfe: Before, when we went road racing, we were heavily sponsoring those efforts in the'70s and '80s, but here we've built the basic products so competitive that grass-roots racers will buy the cars, go out and do the work, and compete on their own. There was a conscious attempt to try to build this progression, this ladder of performance Mustangs. It was always focused on making sure to position the Mustang as America's ultimate muscle car. We sell 100,000-150,000 Mustangs a year, and we wanted to give those buyers the feeling that they can always do more. That's why we now have the Ford Racing driving school (at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah) where there are 40 Mustangs, and you can take a one-day, two-day, or three-day school, learn how to race, and from there, have the option to actually participate in racing. Remember, we are part of a marketing organization. We're here to sell cars and trucks.