ROSARIO, ARGENTINA – Team Ford Racing makes its official Dakar Rally debut with two South African-built Ford Rangers in the grueling 2014 event, taking place from 5-18 January in South America.
The design team responsible for bringing Ford’s Dakar contender to fruition includes a mix of South African and global minds. The purpose-built Ford Rangers are prepared by Pietermaritzburg-based Neil Woolridge Motorsport while logistics is handled by German-based South Racing. Similarly the driver line-up is made up of both international and local contenders including South American native Lucio Alvarez and South African Chris Visser.
“We are extremely proud to be sending these South African-built Rangers to the 2014 Dakar,” says Jeff Nemeth President and CEO of Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa. “Dakar is the ultimate test of man and machine and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to participate with a phenomenal team comprised of local and global expertise.”
Over 1-billion TV viewers from across the globe tuned in to watch the 2013 Dakar with 4.6 million spectators making their way to South America to witness the feat.
The Dakar is a truly international showcase of off-road vehicles,” says Dave Schoch, Group Vice President and President, Ford Motor Company Asia Pacific. “We are pleased to have put together a global team that has exceptional knowledge of the event as well as being capable of performing extremely well racing the Ford Ranger.”
The newly designed Ford Rangers were built in Pietermaritzburg with assistance from Ford Motor Company’s Global Product Development group. Every aspect of the new Ranger has been carefully considered and built with precision and performance in mind.
“A complex jigging system was used in the manufacturing process in order to ensure that each part is built as per the design in order to achieve the perfect fit on every vehicle built,” explains Neil Woolridge, Team Manager and head of Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM). “Although the two new Rangers are locally built we received tremendous support from our global counterparts including the likes of Ford’s SVT division.”
The technical aspects of the project have been managed from the NWM workshops in Pietermaritzburg. The Dakar effort is supported by a dedicated team of 27 people from 10 nationalities in their quest for the top honours in the Dakar battle.
The logistics and European operations are managed by South Racing GmbH, based near Frankfurt, Germany. South Racing is owned and managed by Scott Abraham whose family has a long history in South African motorsport. His father Arthur was a stalwart of South African motorsport for several decades.
Abraham has been based in Europe for the past ten years during which time he has worked as team manager for X-raid BMW/MINI and Overdrive Toyota. He was integral to the launch of the Toyota Dakar project and thus has a wealth of relevant knowledge and experience.
South Racing supplies the team logistic structure including the MAN 6X6 Service Trucks, MAN T4 Race Truck and service equipment. In addition to the vehicles and equipment South Racing manages all logistic and administration requirements for the team including the relationship with ASO.
“The combination of NWM and South Racing will ensure that the project has the necessary expertise and depth to be able to deliver the results,” explains Abraham.
Competitive driver and navigator line-up
Lucio Alvarez and co-driver Ronnie Graue lead the Team Ford Racing charge in the T1 specification Ford Ranger with start number 308. They have delivered impressive results on previous runnings of the Dakar.
In their first outing in 2011 they finished 17th overall, in 2012 they managed to finish in an impressive fifth place while in 2013 they were lying third overall before mechanical problems dropped them down to 27th place. They demonstrated their determination and abilities by fighting their way back up to tenth position at the finish.
The second Ford Ranger is crewed by South African Cross Country competitors Chris Visser and navigator Japie Badenhorst (start number 329). Both are well known in South African motorsport having won the 2010 South African Cross Country Championship, and finished the 2012 and 2013 seasons second overall. This will be their first time competing on the Dakar.
Gruelling test of man and machine
The 2014 Dakar Rally will be the 36th running of the event and the sixth successive running in South America.
The 2014 Dakar Rally Route is sure to be as trying as ever. The event will start in Rosario, Argentina on January 5 and finish in Valparaiso, Chile on January 18 after thirteen stages of competition, which will comprise a total distance of over 9 300 kilometres.
The team’s progress and latest updates can also be followed on Facebook (www.facebook.com/FordAtDakar), Twitter (@FordAtDakar) and via #FordAtDakar.