The old Ford Ranger T1+ off-road racing pickup – which is based on the prior-gen model – has enjoyed its fair share of success over the years and even over the past few months, even though a fully-redesigned version of that same pickup in road-going form has been on sale for some time now. Ford is currently working on developing a new version of its off-road racer – which will compete at the 2025 Dakar Rally – and it even took the time to tease that forthcoming model recently. However, in the meantime, the Ford Ranger T1+ competed at this year’s Dakar Rally for the very first time, and it did quite well in spite of modest expectations, too.
Ford was quite clear from the start that its plans for the 2024 Dakar Rally were to treat it as a “finish and learn” session ahead of next year’s all-out assault on the legendary off-road race, where it once again teamed up with long-time partners M-Sport and Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM). Turns out, it accomplished that mission – and more.
In fact, both of the two Ford Ranger T1+ pickups the automaker brought to Saudi Arabia managed to finish the grueling race and post some top 20 times at various stages throughout, to boot. Those two racers were piloted by Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer, along with Dakar veterans Nani Roma and Alex Haro. However, suspension issues plagued Woolridge and Dreyer, coupled with engine troubles that ultimately kept them off the podium this time around. Regardless, few teams manage to finish Dakar on their first try, making this effort all the more notable.
“Our objective for the 2024 Dakar Rally was to finish and learn, and that’s exactly what we did, despite encountering several challenges along the way,” said NWM team principal and owner, Neil Woolridge. “It’s difficult to explain just how tough this event is but, on average over the two weeks, each day’s competitive stage on the Dakar Rally is equivalent to a normal two-day 400km race in the South African championship, plus there’s the lengthy liaisons to get through which range from just over 100km to more than 500km. Competitors do this for 14 days straight with only a single rest day midway through the race where the team of technicians repair and rebuild the cars for the second week, so just finishing the Dakar is a huge accomplishment in itself.”