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FORD'S V8 PRO-TEAM FINALLY OFFICIAL

Ford's dream team has arrived.

England-based racing empire Prodrive's bold V8 Supercar vision has given birth to Ford Performance Racing - a determined three-car assault on Holden's long V8 Supercar reign.

It's the news Ford's success-starved fans have waited months to hear.

Ford heroes Glenn Seton, Craig Lowndes and David Besnard will fly the FPR banner from the first event of the season, the non-championship Australian Grand Prix meeting in March.

Seton has sold his franchise to Prodrive, relinquishing control to new boss, Ford Performance Vehicles Managing Director David Flint.

It's a new lease on life for Seton, the Ford stalwart believed to be on a two-year contract to regain his position among the category's leading drivers.

Ford-contracted Lowndes was removed from 00 Motorsport when talks between them and Prodrive broke down, and will spearhead the campaign. Besnard joins the team from Stone Brothers Racing after being replaced by Russell Ingall.

A statement released today confirmed the deal, describing it as the final component in Ford's revived commitment to race-bred performance vehicles.

The team will align itself with the relaunched Ford Performance Vehicles brand, now owned by Prodrive, relocating from Seton's modest Melbourne garages to new premises at FPV's Campbellfield headquarters in 2004.

"It was important to us that there was a direct and highly visible link between our new road car range and our motorsport activities," Ford Australia President Geoff Polites said.

"The timing of the new team is perfect, coinciding with the debut of our new BA V8 Supercar under the new Project Blueprint rules and the release of the first FPV road car range.

"It's also appropriate that the launch of this new team coincides with global centenary celebrations for Ford, the company that had its origins in motorsport."

Mr Flint said drawing on Prodrive's worldly expertise, the name behind some of world motorsport's most successful rally and circuit racing teams, would open doors to an unprecedented level of racing resources.

"We looked at the many options of how we could enhance Ford's Australian motorsport activities," he said.

"The establishment of FPR with the depth of talent and professionalism available to us through the combined resources of Ford and Prodrive really was our optimum route."

The race is now on to have the team functional for the new season.

The first BA Falcon is nearing completion, to be driven by Lowndes, while Seton and Besnard will start the year in 2002-spec AU Falcons.

"Ideally, we would want to contest the first race with three cars developed from the BA base," Mr Flint said. "That will not be possible and it will be much later in the season before our drivers can be equipped with three equally specified 'Barra' race cars."

New livery and external sponsorship arrangements will be revealed in the next few weeks.

Mr Flint said he was working hard with Prodrive to gather the resources and personnel required.

"We are in this to win and will do whatever it takes to get to the top of the field," he said.

--V8 WIRE (Jason Whittaker)

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