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Ford is sending the Ranger Raptor to the Dakar Rally – but doesn’t plan to win immediately


Win on Sunday, sell on Monday continues to be a successful formula for the Blue Oval brand who will now head deep into the desert to prove itself once again

Ford has confirmed it will be sending its Ranger Raptor to compete in what is regarded to be the greatest and most dangerous off-road races on earth: the Dakar Rally.

Despite the considerable resources behind the brand, Ford doesn’t expect to win right off the bat, with the team set to compete in the 2024 Dakar on a “finish and learn” basis in an existing race ute, based on the previous-gen Ranger Raptor.

Ford Ranger Raptor race car Dakar
Ford has confirmed it will be sending the Ranger Raptor to complete the Dakar Rally in 2024

The project is a combined effort between Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM), Ford Performance and M-Sport who will treat the first race as a learning period before the latter pair put their heads together to produce an all-new contender.

NWM will continue to be involved on the new-generation race ute to assist with testing, development, manufacturing and more.

The new racing ute will be based on the current-generation Raptor and built to the Dakar’s Rally Raid T1+ class regulations and will compete in the Dakar Rally in 2025.

The road forward to the 2025 Dakar Rally

The remainder of 2023 will be set aside as a development period using the previous Raptor T1+ race car, which will likely compete in Spain’s Baja España Aragón and Morocco’s Rally du Maroc rallies as part of this process.

From there, it will complete in the 2024 Dakar which takes place between January 5th to 19th in Saudi Arabia. 

Ford Ranger Raptor race car front jump
Ford will first send a racing ute based on the last-gen Raptor in 2024 before a model based on the new-gen ute is developed for 2025

Both Raptors will be ground-up built race vehicles with a tube frame chassis, a  notable deviation from the relatively stock Ranger Raptor that Ford used to win both  the Finke Desert Race and Baja 1000. 

It remains unclear what the next-gen Raptor race car will look like but T1+ regulations require that it uses an unmodified factory engine, similar to the 3.5-litre twin-turbocharged V6 EcoBoost engine found in Ford’s 2024 Dakar contender.

The Ranger may even be joined by its chief rival in the Toyota Hilux – which has raced in the T1+ category for the last few years with the Land Cruiser 300 Series’ twin-turbo 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine under the bonnet.

Ford Ranger Raptor race car Finke 2
Unlike the Raptor that has conquered Finke Desert Race, the ute that tackles Dakar will be far stock

Ford Performance Motorsports global director Mark Rushbrook said the Dakar Rally was one of their ultimate goals but the challenge could not be underestimated.

“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.”