Unleashing a New Beast: Dakar-Hopeful, Ford Ranger Raptor
Ford is no stranger to rallies, producing some of the most iconic rally cars we have seen – the RS200, Focus RS WRC and, of course, Ken Block's collection of rally-based drift cars. However, they have yet to dabble in the world of Dakar. This particular car is exciting for South Africa as the vehicle will be partially developed locally.
We have put the new Ranger Raptor through its paces and are impressed with its insane on-road and off-road performance. Imagine how spectacular a fully-fledged race car equivalent of this already purpose-built bakkie could be, especially considering it has a South African touch.
To ensure this rally raid car can keep up with the competition, it has a 3.5-litre EcoBoost engine which will be rigorously tested at Spain's Baja España Aragón and Morocco's Rally du Maroc rallies.
The SA company working with the Ford performance centre is Neil Woolridge Motorsport. This team is no stranger to finding off-road pace, and they have been placed in charge of the initial development and design of the Ranger Raptor T1+.
Fortunately for the team, the car has been in the works for a few years, and this crazy racing Raptor is no secret. Yet Ford Performance's addition to the team allows for a fair amount of refinement in preparation of the Rally Raid T1+ class in the Saudi Arabia Dakar. This will take place on the 5-19th of January 2024.
Another partner in the build is M-Sport, Malcom Wilson's Race Shop. A team of mechanics and boffins responsible for a selection of Ford's WRC cars over the past 25 years. Their extensive rally experience is paramount in the maintenance and servicing of the vehicle, on top of the car's development.
The Ford team has high hopes for the Raptor next year, but they have expressed that the focus of their race at the Dakar is primarily a learning experience. Ford's Mark Rushbrook claimed they are taking "a measured approach" to the race. He also insisted that the purpose of next year's involvement is "very much a finish and learn effort".
The big question circulating out of the States is the choice for the Ranger over other units like the Bronco or F150. The Ranger is the globally exported bakkie from Ford, and it makes sense to use a car with which the rest of the world is familiar.
Following next year's race, Ford has already set its sights on a second-generation bakkie, drawing inspiration from the upcoming T1+ truck. Ford's forward-thinking plan is evident, and the initial glimpses from the current project look promising.
We look forward to seeing this new car in the dunes in January next year, especially considering this is another race car participating in Dakar with a South African touch.