Two V8-powered Ford Ranger utes will take on the 8500km-plus 2014 Dakar Rally when the event kicks off in South America in January.
Built and designed in South Africa by Pietermaritzburg-based Neil Woolridge Motorsport with support from Ford’s global product developments division, the two Dakar utes are based on T6 4x4 Double Cab Ford Rangers normally fitted with a 147kW/470Nm 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel engine.
Powered by a 5.0-litre V8 with twin independent variable cam timing, the two Rangers each produce 260kW at 4500rpm and 560Nm at 4100rpm. Transferring grunt to all four wheels are a Sadev six-speed sequential gearbox and a front and rear limited-slip differential.
Composite body work sits atop front and rear independent suspension with twin BOS Engineering dampers, front and rear antiroll bars and a Brembo brake package featuring air cooled front brakes and water cooled rears.
Riding on 16-inch Evo Corse wheels wrapped in 245mm-wide and 85mm-tall Michelin tyres, the 1975kg utes have a claimed top speed of 170km/h.
Ford says one of the two Ford Rangers is already complete and will begin testing next month, with the second due to be finished by the end of October. The first is to be piloted by Lucio Alvarez and Ronnie Graue, while South African duo Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst will man the second.
The four drivers will be supported by a team of 24 full-time staff along with MAN 6X6 service trucks, MAN T4 race trucks and service equipment.
President and CEO of Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa Jeff Nemeth said the group was extremely proud to be sending two South African-built Rangers to the 2014 Dakar event.
"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,” Nemeth said.
Next year’s Dakar Rally – formerly known as the Paris to Dakar rally – will be the 35th running of the event and the sixth successive staging in South America.
Comprising thirteen competition stages, the off-road event will start in Rosario, Argentina on January 5 and finish in Valparaiso, Chile on January 18. The 2014 Dakar will also include a visit to Bolivia for the first time.