Ford to enter 2014 Dakar with Mustang-engined RangersTue, 30 Jul 2013 00:00:00 -0700
Quick show of hands: how many people here would sell their car, their kidneys, their child for a Mustang-powered Ford Ranger? Sounds appealing, right? Well, keep the child. Ford has another way for you to get access to a 5.0-liter, V8-powered Ranger.
You just have to be on its Dakar team first.
For the 2014 Dakar Rally next January, Team Ford Racing is fielding two Coyote-powered Ranger 4x4 Double Cab models. Ford expects around 348 hp (260 kW) and 413 lb-ft of torque (560 nm). The suspension is fully independent, the four-wheel drive is permanent, and the Brembo brakes are water-cooled in the back. It will race in the T1 class, for cars under 3,500 kilograms -- so it will do battle against cars like the BMW X3 and the perennially popular Mitsubishi Montero.
The Ranger in question is not some Splash edition from the mid-'90s but the trick Ranger T6 that we don't get in America. Fortunately, South America, South Africa, and Germany get it -- which is where the team hails from. The truck is built by Neil Woolridge Motorsport, based in charmingly named Pietermaritzburg, South Africa; Germany-based South Racing, which previously worked on Mini's and Toyota's Dakar efforts, will supply logistics and support vehicles. Yes, that means gnarly MAN 6x6 desert-whomping support trucks.
South Americans and Africans fill the driver roster as well. One Ford Ranger will be driven by Lucio Alvarez and Ronnie Graue, while the other will have Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst. As for the latter two, they're no strangers to off-road racing, having won the 2011 South African Cross Country Championship and leading 2013's event -- yet it is their first time competing in Dakar itself.
Ford's goal for the Dakar is not just to win, but to reach out to the global audiences that are able to buy a Ranger. (Does this include us? Let's not hold our collective breath.) The race is regularly watched by one billion people across 190 countries, while 4.6 million people flood into Peru, Argentina, and Chile to watch it unfold before them. Some 459 vehicles and teams representing 53 nations started in 2013. In a roundabout way, Team Ford Racing itself will represent three: South Africa, Germany, and the good ol' US of A.
The last Ford ever to spin a wheel in the dirt was a Raptor in 2011: the aptly named Team Raptor USA placed first in class with a largely stock-engined Raptor, a first for an American team. (Can you feel the patriotism in the air just reading that sentence? USA! USA! USA!) Another year, another V8, in a different Ford should hopefully bring back some bragging rights.
Catch Dakar Fever (which is mercifully different from dengue fever) on the NBC Sports Network Jan. 5-18.
Team Ford Racing is partnering up with Neil Woolridge Motorsport of South Africa and South Racing of Germany.
By Blake Z. Rong