2006 MOTOR SHOW
Mike Kranefuss posing with Carlos GHYS
Kranefuss was born in Germany and was a racing fan from an early age. While working in his family's business he was involved in a project to build a racing circuit with Karl Von Wendt. This was not a success but it led to Kranefuss being offered a job as an assistant in the newly-formed Competition Department of Ford Germany in 1968. In 1972 he became motorsport manager of Ford Germany and embarked on the development of the Ford Capri in association with the Zakspeed team. The Zakspeed Capris were highly successful in the German Racing Championship with drivers Dieter Glemser, Hans Heyer and Klaus Ludwig all being successful and Jochen Mass and Heyer both winning the European Touring Car Championship and the Spa 24 Hours. As a result of his successes Kranefuss was promoted to be the head of Ford's European competition department in 1976. In addition to continued success in touring car racing Ford also increased its involvement in rallying with Bjorn Waldegard becoming the World Rally Champion in 1979 with the Ford Escort RS.
In September 1980 Kranefuss was appointed to head the new Ford Special Vehicle Operations in Detroit and in 1983 took control of all Ford sporting programs around the world. This led to an expansion of motorsport activities and successes with the Lincoln brand in TransAm (with Tom Gloy, Wally Dallenbach and Scott Pruett) with Ford in NASCAR (Bill Ellliott won the title in 1988 and Alan Kulwicki in 1992) and in CART in 1992 and 1993 (Nigel Mansell winning the company the title in the second season). In Formula 1 Kranefuss supported Benetton's efforts, which resulted in success for Sandro Nannini, Nelson Piquet and Michael Schumacher in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
In 1993 Kranefuss left Ford and tried to establish an Indycar team. This was not successful but he then formed a partnership with Carl Haas in NASCAR, the team running its first full season of Winston Cup races in 1995. In late 1997 Haas was bought out by Roger Penske and the newly-named Penske-Kranefuss Racing enjoyed considerable success with driver Jeremy Mayfield. In October 2000 he sold his shareholding to Penske and in 2002 embarked on a new venture with the launch of Falcon Cars with the aim of building Indy Racing League machinery in the United States.