A Few Words With: Ford’s Allison
Longtime Ford employee Jamie Allison was named director of Ford North America Motorsports after six years serving as Ford Performance Group Manager. Allison was on hand for last week’s NASCAR Media Tour, sponsored by Charlotte Motor Speedway, and talked with RacingToday Senior Writer Mike Harris about where the Ford Motorsports program stands heading into the 2010 racing season:
Ford, and particularly Roush Fenway Racing, its flagship team, had a tough season in 2009, winning only three races and placing only two of five drivers in the 12-man Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Allison pointed out a couple of milestones that Ford is hoping to hit this season in Sprint Cup. Jack Roush is within one win of 400 in NASCAR and sports car racing combined, while Ford is five wins away from 600 in Cup. He was also quick to point out the addition of two new Ford teams, RPM and Front Row Motorsports, giving Ford 12 entries in 2010, up from seven in 2009.
RacingToday: Coming off a disappointing year, what are your thoughts about 2010, particularly for Roush Fenway Racing?
Allison: “Inevitably, in the last couple of weeks since I’ve taken up the job, the question comes up about last year. I met with Jack (Roush) and we had a great conversation and I can tell you the hallmark of greatness isn’t what happens when you’re riding high, the hallmark of greatness is what do you do when the chips are down? I can tell you we at Ford have a tradition of winning. Jack himself has a tradition of winning and all of our teams, all of our drivers, come from a great (heritage) of winning.
“So we have a winning spirit and 2010 is a new year. We’ve seen the improved success at the tailend of last year with the Roush Fenway cars. The addition of RPM brings a great dimension to that formula, and, obviously, the return of the Wood Brothers and the addition of the Front Row team. So, a year ago, we had seven cars in the Daytona 500 and we’re going to have 12 outstanding Ford Fusions, all capable of winning (this year).
“It’s the start of a new season and, if you’re not optimistic at the start, I don’t know when you would be. I can tell you our eye’s the grand prize, trying to notch another title under the Ford banner.’’
RT: How does Ford view its participation in motorsports?
Allison: “Racing very simply is a marketing program. But this specific marketing program is based on competition. So that means the first thing that you have to do to be effective, you have to win, because it’s competition. Once you win, that gives you the opportunity to communicate our marketing message, which in this case is Ford is going through a transformation and we want our fans to know that, although today they buy our great trucks and Mustangs, we now are adding a stable of cars, small, fun-to-drive, exciting, fuel economy, 40-miles-to-the-gallon cars that we previously did not have. And racing is the means to communicate that.
“So, our view on racing is unchanged. Henry Ford himself raced in 1901 to start Ford Motor Company for the same reasons: To showcase the great products and reach out to the fans. Our research shows it works.’’
RT: You say Ford needs to win to get its full message across. Do you have the pieces in place to win?
Allison: “Absolutely! If you dissect what happened last year _ only briefly, because if you spend too much time in the past, you’ll be stuck in the past _ we’ve got our eyes going forward. But you’ve got to learn from what happened. If you look at the last third of the season, all of a sudden you start seeing top 10s, top fives and a win among the Roush teams. And that shows that we had dialed in on some of the technology, and the simulation and the modeling and the testing that one needs at this level of the sport _ except we were at the back half of the season. Add to that RPM. great talent, great teams. Now we go from just basically four to five cars to adding RPM, adding Front Row. The Wood Brothers were there, so (it’s) 12 cars. So, we have the tools, we’ve got the resources and we’ve got the resolve and determination to win. It’s a game where it starts here.’’
RT: In the wake of the recession and the disaster that overtook the entire auto industry, but particularly the Big Three, last year, what is Ford’s commitment to the sport?
Allison: “Our commitment is we shifted some of the priorities to make sure that all the Cup teams have access to the latest tools and the resources and the simulations that they need and the testing they need to be competitive. So our commitment is there to help the Cup teams achieve to the next level.
“We did our reductions a couple of years ago, across the entire company. Based on what we did a couple of years ago, we are at a very efficient level of support that is committed, unwavering and our research shows that our participation in motorsports does reach out to the fans and does endear them to our products. We believe it works.’’
RT: You’ve taken over a very prestigious job, following some very strong people who held the position before. What is your background?
Allison: ” I have a lifelong career at Ford. I always loved Mustangs. I was a young man and a boy who loved cars, loved fast cars. Growing up I just wanted to work at Ford after graduating from college. I’ve been at Ford 22 years, half of that time on the product side. I started out in engineering, working my way into product planning and engineering a little bit. Then I moved over to marketing. What you do in racing is take all the excitement that happens in racing and all the stuff that happens with the fans and help deliver Ford’s messages. So I’ve got a product and marketing background to make sure our racing program delivers on our objectives.’’
RT: Is this an exciting time for you to become the leader of the racing program at Ford?
Allison: “I’ve been at Ford Racing for six years, so I was on the grassroots side and the participants’ based racing and on the outreach to the clubs and the fans and our performance business, where we sell performance parts of people who work on their cars. So I’ve been living it the last six years. The addition of NASCAR, NHRA and professional racing is just an added element to my scope. So I feel I’m hitting the ground running and it’s certainly very exciting. But, ultimately, there’s an objective for us to achieve.’’
– Mike Harris can be reached at email@example.comNo Comment