Ford Performance announced its return to the prestigious Dakar Rally in 2024, expanding its motorsport presence. This announcement follows Ford’s recent partnership as an engine supplier to Red Bull’s Formula One team, as well as its decision to re-enter the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the Mustang GT3.
While Ford Performance has a long history in motorsport, the Dakar Rally has remained an untapped market for the company. All of that is about to change as Ford prepares to enter a Ranger in the gruelling race next year.
To lead the charge at one of the ultimate global off-road events – the Dakar Rally – has been our goal,” said Mark Rushbrook, Global Director of Ford Performance Motorsports, of this new challenge. We must not underestimate the magnitude of the task ahead of us.”
The strong South African influence behind the scenes distinguishes this Dakar Rally endeavour. Neil Woolridge Motorsport and M-Sport collaborated on the development of the locally assembled Ford Ranger, which is currently competing in the South African Rally-Raid Championship (SARRC). Ford hopes to create a formidable contender for the Dakar Rally by combining NWM’s extensive off-road racing expertise with M-Sport’s WRC know-how.
The team worked tirelessly on the project throughout 2023, completing several development phases. The testing platform is the Ranger T1+, which is based on the previous generation global Ranger and is equipped with a powerful 3.5-litre EcoBoost engine. In preparation for the Dakar Rally, the team plans to compete in test races such as Spain’s Baja Espaa Aragón and Morocco’s Rally du Maroc in July and October. The official driver lineup, however, has yet to be announced.
While the team’s expectations for 2024 are modest, referring to it as a “finish and learn process,” they have set higher goals for 2025. It remains to be seen whether the team and the Ranger will retain the same technical partners and mechanical architecture the following year.
Malcolm Wilson, Managing Director of M-Sport, expressed his enthusiasm for the project, citing their successful collaboration in FIA WRC rally racing with Ford. “The Dakar Rally is truly among the pinnacles of global off-road racing events,” he said. We have had great success with Ford in FIA WRC rally racing over the years, and we can not wait to apply the same level of focus, energy, and effort to competing with Ranger in Dakar.