Ford Performance has raced and won from Le Mans to Monaco, Daytona to Bathurst and Finke to Ensenada. But it has yet to take on one of the toughest races on the planet – the iconic Dakar Rally.
Today, Ford announced the time has come to fill that gap in its sweeping motorsports resume. Extreme racing versions of the “bad-ass” Ford Ranger and Ranger Raptor will forge the way for the Ford Performance expansion into global off-road racing, including the famed and fearsome Dakar Rally in 2024 and beyond.
The first step in the multi-year plan to compete in the Dakar Rally is to finish and learn in collaboration with longtime partners M-Sport and Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) for vehicle development, servicing and event management.
"To lead the charge at one of the ultimate global off-road events – the Dakar Rally – has been a goal of ours,” said Mark Rushbrook, Global Director, Ford Performance Motorsports. “We cannot underestimate the enormity of the challenge ahead of us. We need to finish and learn first with Ranger T1+ and partners like M-Sport and NWM, who bring their expertise to bear. Together, we can do amazing things in the sand dunes of the Arabian Peninsula.”
Leading the charge into the 2024 Dakar Rally, taking place January 5-19 in Saudi Arabia, will be a purpose-built, high-performance Ford Ranger racing in the Rally Raid T1+ category.
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-litre 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.
“Our first time in Dakar will be a learning adventure that will help inform how we compete in the future,” said Rushbrook. “But as with all racing, we’re not just racing to win, we’re also racing to help build better products for our customers.”
For the 2025 Dakar Rally, Ford Performance and M-Sport are developing an all-new, custom-built Ranger Raptor – the ultimate performance derivative of Europe’s best-selling pickup – designed and built to Dakar’s T1+ class regulations.
“The Dakar Rally is truly among the pinnacle of global off-road racing events,” said Malcolm Wilson, M-Sport managing director. “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.”
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 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.