until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Ford’s motorsport expansion continues with new Dakar project

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
3 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Ford has launched a fully-fledged factory Dakar Rally programme with its long-term World Rally Championship partner M-Sport and cross-country rally specialist Neil Woolridge Motorsport.

It will take on the marquee four-wheel T1+ class of the event with a Ford Ranger in 2024 as “a first step in the multi-year plan”.

It is then developing a new Ranger Raptor car for 2025.

The Dakar programme fits a trend of increased international motorsport involvement by Ford, coming ahead of its Formula 1 return with Red Bull for 2026 and the announcement that it will revive its Le Mans 24 Hours presence with a Mustang GT3 project in collaboration with Multimatic next year.

None are necessarily full works programmes in the traditional in-house sense, given the involvements of Red Bull Powertrains, M-Sport, NWM and Multimatic, but the result is still a significantly wider top-level international motorsport presence for the Ford brand than has been the case in recent decades.

Though Ford’s announcement claims it “has yet to take on one of the toughest races on the planet” in the Dakar, competitive privateer Fords have been a staple of the Car class in recent years, with former WRC driver (including for M-Sport) Martin Prokop a regular in the top 10 in his Ford Raptor.

“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,” said Ford motorsport boss Mark Rushbrook.


M-Sport had already aligned with the South African NWM company last year with an eye on a potential Dakar tilt.

“We’ve achieved great success over the years with Ford in FIA WRC rally racing and can’t wait to apply this same level of focus, energy and effort to competing with Ranger in Dakar,” said M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson.

The current ‘big three’ in the T1 class comprises Toyota, Audi and Prodrive. Toyota has won three of the last five Dakars with Nasser Al-Attiyah.

Nasser Al Attiyah

Ford says the programme is set to contest the likes of Baja Aragon and traditional Dakar dress rehearsal Rally du Maroc as part of its preparations.

It has not yet announced any drivers or the specific number of entries it expects to field in the 2024 Dakar, which will be the fifth Saudi Arabia-based Dakar, running from January 5 to January 19.

However, rally specialist website DirtFish had reported two months ago that Nani Roma, a Dakar winner in bikes and cars, had tested the Ford Ranger with M-Sport and was under consideration for a drive.

“There’s no question that if we want to win Dakar then you need the experience,” Wilson told DirtFish at that time. “I don’t need to tell you the guys who are on the shopping list for that.

“There’s some of them in the WRC but there’s an incredible amount of interest in competing in Dakar.

“I must admit that’s the one thing that has really, really probably shocked me – the amount of people and they all seem to have some form of budget to be able to do something.”

Roma missed the 2023 Dakar after a bladder cancer diagnosis, but it has long been reported as being in remission.

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