DUBAI: An extreme racing version of the Ford Ranger will lead the expansion of Ford Performance global off-road racing to include the iconic Dakar Rally in 2024 and beyond.
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 Dakar Rally, which in January 2024 will be hosted for the fourth year running in Saudi Arabia.
“I think we are committed to this cycle plan that we have in motorsports and always looking for more opportunities where it makes sense, where we can deliver on our pillars, which includes the engineering innovation, tech transfer, the marketing, tying into our name plates and to different regions of the world,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance Motorsports.
Ford’s commitments recently saw the American manufacturer announce its return to Formula One with reigning world champions Oracle Red Bull Racing from 2026, and over the weekend took part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Now it is set to take on the Saudi dunes.
“I was there myself for Dakar earlier this year to see and understand what we had committed to already at that point in time,” Rushbrook added. “And it was fantastic to see the infrastructure that is there, the commitment from Saudi to motorsports, in so many different disciplines. So definitely appreciate the opportunity to compete there.”
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 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 Rushbrook. “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 Jan. 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-liter EcoBoost engine.
Test races are expected to include Spain’s Baja Espana Aragon 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 designed to Dakar’s T1+ class regulations.
“The Dakar Rally is truly among the pinnacle of global off-road racing events,” said Malcom Wilson, M-Sport managing director. “We’ve achieved great success over the years with Ford in FIA WRC 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 Federation Internationale de l’Automobile’s World Rally Championship, as well as engine builder 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 and around the world.