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The unsuccessful Ford model with a cult following

Ford’s AU model Falcon enjoys a cult like status, but back when it was launched 25 years ago this was far from the case.

At the Repco Adelaide Motorsport Festival, many of the famous racing versions from the AU era will be on display and completing demonstration runs across the weekend.

Introduced for the 1999 V8 Supercars Championship season, the AU arrived on the scene when Holden was arguably at its strongest and held an enviable record by clean-sweeping every round of the title.

Jason Bright scored the AU’s first win for Stone Brothers Racing at Hidden Valley Raceway, but these were few and far between.

At the turn of the millennium, Ford’s fortunes began to turn due to the efforts of Dick Johnson Racing, Stone Brothers Racing and Glenn Seton Racing.

Although from the initial launch the AU appeared very slippery in aerodynamical terms, there was a serious problem as it was shaped like an aircraft wing in the top half of its design leading to lift off at high speeds. This didn’t prove a problem during qualifying or one lap pace, but during a stint was where the unstable aerodynamics emerged in primarily increased tyre wear.

This was further demonstrated when Mark Larkham put the Holden front bumper and rear wing on the AU when downforce was increased highlighting the advantage of the Commodore.

A ‘TEGA Bumper’ was designed utilising the Holden front bar’s bottom half as the push towards ‘Project Blueprint’ began.

Although 2001 and 2002 produced demoralising results for Supercars competitors due to Tom Walkinshaw Racing’s utter dominance, the closing stages of the era revealed change was not far away due to the rise of Marcos Ambrose.

The AU can be thanked by Ford fans for one thing, the manufacturer learning from its mistakes previously and building a successful model.

For 2003, the BA gave Ford its long awaited championship success and three years later broke the Blue Oval’s drought at Bathurst.

AU Falcons will be a fixture of the Repco Adelaide Motorsport Festival’s Supercars class on March 16-17.