Ford Performance Ranger T1+ all dressed up for next month's Dakar Rally

ford performance ranger t1 dakar rally 001

In June, Ford Performance announced it would contest the Dakar Rally for the first time, debuting the chosen ride as a camouflaged shorty Ford Ranger T1+ for the top class. The truck’s based on the previous-gen Ranger, powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, developed with longtime World Rally Championship partner M-Sport and South African rally maestros Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM). The former team hasn’t only prepped the Ford’s rally cars, including the current Puma HybridRally1, it builds the engines for the Ford Mustang GT3 car. NWM has been building T1+ class Rangers for four years, for a variety of series including the South African Rally-Raid Championship. Here’s our first look at the uncamouflaged Ranger T1+ that’s going up against multiple race winners in Dakar who will be driving marques like Mini, Audi, Prodrive, and Toyota.

We don’t have many specs on the truck yet. We do know there’s a Reiger suspension between body and wheels that M-Sport technical director Chris Williams described as “a new damper and wishbone setup resulting in an improved motion ratio and making full use of Reiger’s latest damper technology, designed specifically for rally raid.” The new dampers and a huge focus on cooling have been part of more than 6,000 miles of development testing from South Africa to the Middle East. And that doesn’t include the two Rally Raid races the three partners also used for development testing, Spain’s Baja Aragon and Morocco’s Rally du Maroc. 

Team drivers will be Spaniard Nani Roma, who’s won the Dakar Rally in a car in 2014 and on a bike in 2004, and Gareth Woolridge, who leads the new vehicle assembly team at NWM and who won this year’s South African Rally-Raid Championship in an NVM Ford Castrol Ranger T1+. In the Spanish rally Ford used for testing, Roma finished seventh; Toyota finished first and second, Carlos Sainz got his updated Audi RS Q E-tron E2 across the line in third in the electric racer’s first test, but Audi’s unofficial entry wasn’t classified on the final results sheet. In Morocco, Roma finished third behind two Toyotas, Audi finishing ninth.    

Good omens for next month’s race, where Ford, M-Sport, and NWM will be competing primarily to finish and learn. They’ll spend 2024 building and testing a new truck on the all-new Ranger Raptor, aiming for Dakar victory in 2025. In the meantime, look for the Ranger T1+ to tackle the dunes of Saudi Arabia from January 5 to January 19 next year.

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