Ford has ramped up discussions of entering the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, with initial involvement to potentially begin as early as Season Five later this year.
Multiple industry sources have indicated to e-racing365 that the ‘Blue Oval’ is working towards an eventual factory effort in the all-electric championship, to potentially replace its European-based Ford GT program in the FIA World Endurance Championship once its current contract expires in mid-2019.
A well-placed source said that Ford branding “could be seen” from Season Five onwards with a satellite team, citing increased urgency to enter the series amid only a few remaining available manufacturer slots.
Formula E has a rigid 12-team, 24-car maximum entry, with Mercedes-Benz and Porsche already confirmed as the 11th and 12th teams, respectively, to debut in Season Six.
“[Ford is] realizing they should be involved in Formula E to some extent before viable avenues potentially close for it to become involved without difficulty,” said the source, who requested anonymity.
Additionally, it’s understood Formula E founder and CEO Alejandro Agag made a trip to Detroit earlier this month.
A Ford representative told e-racing365 they “don’t comment on speculation about future plans” when asked for a statement on its possible Formula E program.
Should Ford commit, it would mark the first American manufacturer represented in the series.
It would also coincide with the brand’s significant investment into electric vehicles, having announced last month that it will pour in $11 billion to offer 40 hybrid or full EVs by 2022.
Dragon Favorite for Future Partnership
Dragon Racing and Virgin Racing appear to be the only two realistic candidates for Ford to partner with should it get the go-ahead for the program.
The Jay Penske-owned Dragon team, which has moved some of its design and research capability to California in recent months, would appear to be the favorite, given the American links.
An additional 13th team has already been ruled out by Agag, as Formula E Holdings Ltd.’s contract with teams stipulates a maximum of 12 entrants, which was designed to create value for the franchise system.
“We have no more entries as a commercial rights holder, so a new manufacturer would have to do a deal with one of the current independent teams,” he told e-racing365 last year.
“I know that they [the independent teams] are getting a lot of interest. I expect one or two more [manufacturers] to come in.”
Jay Penske’s father, Roger, has links to Ford via dealerships in California and last year expanded its assets with an acquisition of several Ford automotive retail businesses.
One of these was re-branded as Penske Ford Chula Vista through the SoCal Penske Dealer Group. Team Penske has also run Fords in the NASCAR Cup series since 2014.
While there are no business links at all between Dragon and Team Penske, some senior Ford personnel are known to have spent time with Dragon at the Miami E-Prix back in March 2015.