Ford Joins Dakar Rallies w/ Ranger Raptor

Ford Goes All-In in Global Motorsport

Ford marked the beginning of a new chapter in its motor sports history by confirming that it will face off against rival Gazoo Racing Toyota Hilux in the 2024 and 2025 Dakar Rally, racing in the T1+ class. Their goal is to challenge Toyota, which has triumphed in three of the last five competitions.

The Dakar Rally is a true test of endurance and skill, and it’s no surprise that few have been able to win the race on their first attempt. Porsche, however, is an exception to this rule. That’s why Ford is taking a different approach with their 2024 Dakar entry in Saudi Arabia: they plan to use it as a “finish and learn” exercise before returning the following year with an all-new custom-built Ranger Raptor built to T1+ specification.

Ford is proud to announce that their 2024 entry is inspired by the preceding Ranger, thanks to a synergistic relationship between Ford Performance, M-Sport, and the Neil Woolridge Motorsport squad. All parties involved have put in sizeable contributions to create a formidable specialist vehicle ready for the coming year.

But we are ready to take on the task of developing a Ford-built race truck to compete in the world’s toughest off-road motorsport event.””To have the opportunity to spearhead one of the most renowned off-road events – the Dakar Rally – has been a dream of ours,” declared Mark Rushbrook, the Global Director of Ford Performance Motorsports. “We understand the magnitude of the challenge that lies ahead of us. Nevertheless, we are ready to take on the mission of constructing a Ford race truck to participate in the world’s most difficult off-road motorsport competition.”

In spite of its former-generational connotation, the NWM FIA T1+ Ford Ranger is still equipped to be a formidable opponent. Resembling outwardly to a usual Ranger, internally it has been built completely from the ground up to go against off-road competition. One corner’s worth of suspension components weigh in at an amount that is more than what a legal Ranger Raptor would cost. Its 3.5-L EcoBoost twin-turbo motor permits this car’s drive and performance prowess.

Despite this, Ford is taking a very judicious stance; they have straightforwardly expressed their intentions right from the start. Their strategy of finish-and-learn has proved to be exemplary, as the Dakar Rally can deflate even well-resourced teams in a heartbeat – just see what happened to Audi, whose all-electric prototype failed to get more than some isolated stage successes over two attempts at the rally.

Ahead of the 2024 Dakar Rally, this particular racing truck will have the chance to show its mettle in renowned trial races such as Baja Espana Aragon in Spain and the Rally du Maroc in Morocco. As other Dakar Rally teams also use these top-tier contests as benchmark tests for their vehicles, they might proffer us a preliminary look into the potential performance of the formidable Ranger.

After the educational voyage finishes, Ford shall come back in 2025 with a bulldozing Ranger as Raptor. Although we barely understand whatever about the 2025 car at this time, it is evident that it will be constructed by Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) in South Africa. Renowned creator of Rally-Raid Ranger (loaded with 5.0 liter Coyote V8) for excited enthused drivers, NWM actually improved the situation and birthed the NWM FIA T1+ Ford Ranger.

NWM will also reap its advantages from the incorporation of M-Sport. It is celebrated for constructing the engines for the Mustang GT3 initiative and presiding over the M-Sport Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1 in the FIA World Rally Championship; these exhibit a huge magnitude of combined skill.

“The Dakar Rally is truly among the pinnacle of global off-road racing events,” said Malcolm Wilson, M-Sport managing director. “Our track record of success in FIA WRC rally racing with Ford is well-known, and we look forward to bringing the same level of dedication, enthusiasm, and commitment to the table when we race with Ranger in Dakar.”

It will be intriguing to observe whether or not Ford adopts the same strategy as Toyota’s Gazoo Racing. Aficionados of Hilux tend to boast that their particular models are resilient enough to make it through the Dakar Rally, but, we alluded before, the race models are worlds apart from the legal highway transport. The mediocrity of Hilux, courtesy of Gazoo Racing, is a mid-engine racing truck equipped with Toyota’s 3.4-litre twin-turbocharged V6 engine, implemented from the Land Cruiser. In its race form, the engine exhibits less potency compared to the road vehicle.

The 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine found in the NWM FIA T1+ Ford Ranger is not particularly awe-inspiring as compared to the competition. It churns out 402 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque, which proves to be insignificantly lower than what’s offered by the recently released top-tier Ranger – 405 hp. Contrast this with the 660 hp that it produces for the Ford GT.

Reliability is key above all else; presently, these superior vehicles are restricted to a maximum velocity of 106 mph. In order to succeed, they need to be turbocharged; Toyota learnt this lesson the hard way after employing a 5 liter V8 from 2012 to 2021 before eventually deciding to go the forced induction option and claiming victory in 2022 and 2023.

Why should you take note of the Dakar Rally, even though it has yet to capture the attention of many people in the United States? After all, while events like the King of Hammers form a part of American culture, they can’t measure up to the prestigious nature of the Dakar Rally.

“Visiting Dakar for the first time will be an educational journey that will inform how we approach racing in the future,” Rushbrook stated. “However, as with all forms of competition, our main goal is not only to win, but also to use what we learn to develop better products for our customers.”

The phrase above could signal the beginning of an eventual Ranger Raptor R, with it likely only being available in a few years time.

As yet, Ford have said nothing of consequence with regards to motorists. There is a plenty of outstanding rally racers that are yet to declare their involvement for the year ahead; Nasser Al-Attiyah, Sebastien Loeb, Stephane Peterhansel, Giniel de Villiers, Mattias Ekstrom and Carlos Sainz being just some of them. To be sure, however, this is barely the tip of the ice berg.

In 204 days, the commencement of the 2024 Dakar Rally will take place, and Ford has numerous projects in the works before then. Although it could be a struggle in the initial year to outperform the powerful Hilux, the rivalry will undoubtedly be fierce by 2025.

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