Ford fans left feeling blue

Why has Prodrive taken its foot off the gas and left its title wide open for Triple Eight to steal?

THERE’S ONLY A single event remaining in the Supercars calendar this year, but at the all-important finale one team is conspicuously absent from the title reckoning.

Triple Eight wrapped up the teams’ title, and will most likely grab the drivers too. But what of the defending champions Prodrive this year?

Among some of my media colleagues, and rightly or wrongly, there has been a long-held theory they have underachieved. Yet in the three previous seasons, with Ford money dwindling and then disappearing, the team notched up two Bathurst wins and the long-awaited title. It was very impressive given the circumstances.

But this year, where have they been?

Chaz Mostert took longer than he would have hoped regaining the form he had prior to his Bathurst crash. That’s understandable. Cameron Waters is a rookie – albeit the best-prepared since Scott McLaughlin – and had his moments. The Super Black entry was largely where it was last year.

But defending champion Mark Winterbottom has only scored two race wins in his title defence. Intriguingly, this was the first season in some time he’s been able to continue with the same engineer as the previous year.

So where did it go wrong?

Some will say nowhere. After all, the squad won two races and competed with two rookies. But this is Ford’s top squad – whether the factory dollars are there or not.

At the start of the season, Prodrive ended its technical alliance with DJR Team Penske. Now the American-owned outfit have been heavily recruiting the best available drivers and engineers, it’s worth questioning how long it will be until they take the mantle as the Blue Oval’s top squad.

Those outside of Prodrive can only postulate why 2016 wasn’t the success people thought it would be. Off the track, rebuilding the Tickford brand seems good for business, but in a sport that moves as fast as Supercars, the momentum of the previous years is gone.

It’s time to start proving people wrong again.

World’s fastest Polo benched

Just a week after Audi confirmed its exit from the World Endurance Championship came the news another brand under the same umbrella, Volkswagen, would make a surprise exit from the World Rally Championship.

It’s not a shock when you look at what’s on VW’s plate outside of motorsport, but when you consider the success in recent seasons and the raft of changes for 2017, you have to wonder why the call came so late.

Since 2013, they’ve been the team to beat. With Sebastien Ogier behind the wheel, they were an unstoppable force in almost every situation.

Now the drivers are available for others to pick up, but what about the car?

VW had a long-term test program for its 2017 Polo, led by multiple world champ Marcus Grönholm. At this stage, what is potentially the best rally car for next season is being mothballed.

Tick of approval

Fernando Alonso, long considered the benchmark driver in Formula 1 for his race craft, pure speed, technical skills and ability to extract the most out of ordinary cars has picked out who he rates as the best in F1.

Alonso nominated Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo as the pick of the bunch right now when asked by the BBC.

“He was beating Vettel so easily,” Alonso said.

“It was an amazing performance that he showed and he was way ahead of Vettel in every single point — in the driving, in the approach, in the starts, in the pitstops, in the overtaking.”

“On the track you cannot see any mistakes when you are together with him.

“In the overtaking manoeuvres probably he is the best out there.”

If anyone would know the makings of a quality F1 driver, it’s Alonso.

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Lewis Isaacs

Lewis Isaacs

Lewis Isaacs is an award-winning motorsport journo who has written for a number of leading sports and motoring titles. Most of his transport is two-wheeled, but he is happy to drive whatever is in front of him and ask too many questions.