Ford Ranger Raptor Seeks Dakar Victory

Ford Joins Dakar Rally: Multi-year Commitment

For all of the accolades Ford has accumulated over its long and memorable motorsports history, they have never put forth a factory-trained effort for one of the world’s toughest off-road competitions: the Dakar Rally. While this formidable endurance racing event has not been part of the firm’s accomplishments, it is widely known that Ford has grabbed many other championships for the taking.

Come next year, Ford Performance will no longer be sitting on the sidelines; they are set to take up the challenge of the renowned Dakar Rally with a reworked Ranger Raptor entered into the exclusive T1+ division.

“Back in 2014, Ford South Africa had an initiative,” Mark Rushbrook, Global Director at Ford Performance Motorsports, informed me. “However, this time we’re going there as a factory, with some fantastic partners.”

Competing in an event like the Dakar Rally requires a union of strong partners and sound understanding, plus somewhat of good fortune. The 45th edition of the celebrated race spanned across some 3,000 miles of the barren Saudi Arabian desert. During the two-week race, participants experienced heavy downpours as well as treacherous stones that could easily puncture tires, not to mention the usual tribulations of completing such a grueling task.

Come January, 2024, Ford Performance will launch their entry into the T1+ category of the Dakar Rally. Regarded as the highest division, it was where notables such as Nasser Al-Attiyah and Sebastien Loeb challenged for overall triumph in the prior competition.

To surmount them, Ford will require some aid. Grammar is corrected.

Ford Performance has just announced its first major partner in the development of a Ranger Raptor, the Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) team. NWM, who developed the 2014 Dakar entry, have been involved in the design and initial development of the Ranger Raptor for “a number of years,” according to Ford Performance’s global director, Dave Rushbrook. The Ranger Raptor project is no secret, but with Ford Performance now directly involved, it marks a big step forward.

“M-Sport is a long-term partner of ours and have a wealth of experience when it comes to designing and engineering vehicles,” said Rushbrook. “They also understand how to construct service and support trucks, which is essential to our success.” The British firm, M-Sport, owned by Malcom Wilson, has been involved with Ford’s World Rally Championship endeavours for over 25 years now.

The suggestion is that NWM will mainly manage the engineering of the 2024 truck, whilst M-Sport will be in charge of the mammoth task of keeping a team organized through the desert odyssey known as Dakar.

Ford is gearing up for a major push in the Dakar Rally, with an entry planned for 2024 that will be “a very measured approach,” according to chief product development and purchasing officer Hau Thai-Tang. This first foray into the race will be “very much a finish and learn effort,” Thai-Tang told me. But the real goal will come in 2025, when Ford will apply what it learns from the 2024 race and put forth a second-generation, full-factory T1+ machine. “We will enter that design truck in January of 2025, with the intent of competing for the win,” Thai-Tang said.

Building on the triumphs of Ford Bronco in its multiple incarnations, dominating important off-road venues such as the King of the Hammers, the Ranger Raptor has been accumulating successes as well. Last week’s class success at Australia’s Finke Desert Race was delivered to the Raptor’s trophy case, alongside its victory at the Baja 1000.

“So why Ranger and not Bronco for Dakar?” asked Rushbrook. “As a brand, Bronco is more North American focused for us,” he replied. “Ranger, on the other hand, is our global truck. Therefore, it is the most appropriate brand to take there.”

As for the amount of street capabilities incorporated in the T1+ Ranger Raptor for the year 2024, unfortunately, the answer is not much. This being a prototype vehicle, there’s no necessity for teams to rely on any non-customized parts other than its engine.

“We are excited to announce that our 2025 truck will feature a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine, which is similar to the one found in many of Ford’s vehicles over the past few years, including the Le Mans-winning Ford GT,” said Dave Rushbrook, Ford’s chief engineer for full-size pickups. “However, due to class regulations, the engine has to be sourced from within the Ford brand.”

“Who will actually be taking the wheel in the races is yet to be determined. Nani Roma, a two-time Dakar winner, had an opportunity to test drive the truck prior to its official launch, and M-Sport’s leader Malcolm Wilson remarked that there was a “big list” of interested parties, which included some from the World Rally Championship. We’ll have to wait and see how this develops.”

Ford Performance has recently published never before seen photographs of their latest vehicles. The images depict a selection of the lineup in a variety of settings, ranging from racing to everyday driving. In one photo, the new-model Mustang is seen charging down a track with its engine roaring. In another, an iconic F-250 is featured being towed by a semi on a desert highway. And, finally, there’s the Ford Ranger outfitted for an outdoor adventure. Ford Performance unveils exclusive shots of their most recent fleet of automobiles. A range of contexts are glimpsed, going from competitive courses to common transportation. As noted in one of the pics, a fresh Mustang can be seen scurrying across a race circuit, engine roaring. Additionally, a legendary F-250 appears connected to a truck on an arid road. Finally, off-roading is highlighted with a Ford Ranger beautifully equipped for a great Appalachian escapade.

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