Ford Performance set to enter legendary Dakar Rally with Ranger T1+

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Ford Performance is turning up the heat, as it re-enters top level motorsport in a number of categories, such as Formula 1, Nascar, Sportscar racing and just announced, a full factory/works entry into the Dakar Rally in 2024 and beyond.

By contesting in what Mark Rushbrook, Global Director, Ford Performance Motorsports described as ‘the pinnacle of cross-country rallying’ with a specially developed extreme racing version Ford Ranger aims to put the Blue Oval brand on the global stage in an adventurous way.

In an exclusive interview with ‘Fleet’ and Irish Motorsports News, Mark said: “It’s a big challenge to enter the 2024 Dakar in Saudi Arabia, but we have great partners in Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) and M-Sport to create and prepare the Raptor for the ultra-competitive Rally Raid T1+ class.”

He explained that the first step in the multi-year plan to compete in the famous Cross-Country marathon event Dakar Rally is to ‘finish and learn’ and look to achieve an overall win the following year. in collaboration with longtime partners M-Sport (England) and Neil Woolridge Motorsport (South Africa) for vehicle development, servicing and event management. “We need to finish and learn first with Ranger T1+ and with M-Sport and NWM, who bring their expertise to bear, we can do amazing things together in the sand dunes of the Arabian Peninsula. To lead the charge at one of the ultimate global off-road events – the Dakar Rally – has been a goal of ours.”

The joint Ford Performance, M-Sport and NWM team has implemented a series of development phases through 2023 and continues testing with the Ranger T1+, based on the previous generation global Ranger, with a 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine. Test races are expected to include Spain’s Baja España Aragón and Morocco’s Rally du Maroc rallies in July and October, respectively, before tackling the Dakar Rally next year.

Heretofore the Ranger has participated in the Dakar on a few occasions in a private capacity. The full works effort is seen as a long term programme with an ultimate goal – “Our first time in Dakar will be a learning adventure that will help inform how we compete in the future. But as with all racing, we’re not just racing to win, we’re also racing to help build better products for our customers.”

Commenting at the announcement Malcom Wilson, Managing Director, M-Sport, which to date has successfully looked after Ford’s World Rally Championship campaign, who said: “The Dakar Rally is truly among the pinnacle of global off-road racing events. We’ve achieved great success over the years with Ford in FIA WRC rally racing and can’t wait to apply this same level of focus, energy and effort to competing with Ranger in Dakar.”

Cumbria based M-Sport is well regarded as a leading developer and campaigner of the M-Sport Ford Puma HybridRally1 in the FIA World Rally Championship, as well as engine builders for the Mustang GT3 program. NWM, headquartered near Durban, has played a pivotal role since the infancy of the Rally-Raid Ranger, as the team developed and built units at its facility in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, specified to compete in full Dakar T1+ regulations in the South African Rally-Raid Championship (SARRC) and around the world.

Mark concluded that the driver and navigator crew, sponsors and a vibrant colour scheme will be announced in due course.