Ford to race 2014 Dakar in SA built Ranger
If you want to campaign the world’s toughest off-road race in a bakkie, well, it stands to reason that you’d get a South African one.
Toyota South Africa’s Dakar effort, which has netted a third (2012) and second (2013) place in the South American Dakar rally raid, showed that a locally engineered, assembled and run team could, with a fraction of the budget, rival the best off-road racing teams from Europe, Australia and the United States.
For the 2014 Dakar South African bakkie pride representation, will gain blue blooded presence.
Argentine Lucio Alvarez and South Africa’s Chris Visser have been entered to race a brace Ford Rangers. And though the engines are essentially military dust-proofed Mustang 5-litre V8s, the design and construction of these Ford Ranger V8 racing bakkies is all done in the sleepy capital of KwaZulu Natal: Pietermaritzburg.
THE BAKKIE THAT NEIL BUILT
South African off-road racer and engineer, Neil Woolridge, was commissioned by Ford to build its Dakar challenger, besting constructors from the United States and Europe and reinforcing a notion, of substantial factual value, that South Africans currently build the best V8 racing bakkies in the world. No doubt some American Baja racers are none too happy about this state of affairs, but, we are the bakkie nation elect.
Mechanically the T6 Ford Ranger 4×4 double-cab entered for Dakar 2014 is powered by a 5-litre, 32-valve V8 with variable camshaft interval timing and, interestingly, Italian engine management by Magneti Marelli. Woolridge says it should be good for 260kW and 560Nm, driving all-four wheels through a regulation Sadev six-speed sequential transmission and three limited-slip differentials – all French. With its bodyshell crafted from composites, racing weight is 1975kg.
Geared to run 170kph at the top end (you try and drive that fast on terrain you’d usually cross at low-range in a Ranger bakkie), the Dakar V8 Ranger tallies some rather epic fuel consumption figures. Liaison road driving calculates to 28l/100km whilst heavy hauling in Atacama Desert sand should see it running 90l/100km; unsurprisingly, the on-board fuel-tank is a rather long-distance truck-like 500-litre item.
Other clever bits from the experienced engineering expertise of Neil Woolridge’s workshop include water cooled rear brakes and a cabin air-conditioning system, a rather crucial item which has been alarmingly assent from the Toyota Hilux Dakar bakkies in both 2013 and 2013, and nearly caused former Dakar champion Giniel de Villiers to collapse from heat fatigue on an especially testing stage during this year’s race.
Dakar 2014, with the addition of these South African built Rangers to the fold, should underline our status as the people who know how to design something with a loadbay to race at the front of the field in what remains, quite simply, the world’s maddest race.