For more than six months M-Sport and Neil Woolridge Motorsport have toured the planet looking for the hottest, roughest, rockiest and sandiest roads. They found them. And they’ve used them to evolve the Dakar-bound Ford Ranger T1+.
The car has completed more than 6000 miles – the same as two complete Dakar rallies – in a testing tour through Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
With a focus on improving chassis strength and reliability as well as the car’s cooling package and suspension capabilities, the work has been intense since the last quarter of 2022.
The next step, according to M-Sport’s technical director Chris Williams, is for the Ranger to feel the full force of the competition.
“The main development phase is now complete,” said Williams. “We need to prove it in competition. From here we will compete in more relevant competitions to ensure we are match fit ahead of the 2024 Dakar.
“We studied the chassis carefully to find opportunities for structural improvements on stiffness and durability. These changes were made and validated through a rigorous test programme.”
Central to that development has been the team’s work with suspension supplier, Reiger.
Williams added: “To accelerate our development we wanted to go to Reiger for their Dakar experience. Collaboratively we created a new damper and wishbone setup resulting in an improved motion ratio and making full use of Reiger’s latest damper technology, designed specifically for rally raid. We’ve tested the new setup in Fontjoncouse and twice in Morocco, with significant improvements in performance.”
On the cooling side, the Ranger was forced to get hot before it turned cold.
“One of the biggest challenges has been optimising the cooling packages on the vehicle,” said Williams. “We focused on simplifying and improving efficiency of the coolers. Using CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) we have studied the aerodynamics to understand the vehicle air flow and learn how best to extract heat at different speeds.
“To validate our changes we’ve tested in Dubai, South Africa and Morocco which all had ambient temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Celsius.”
Neil Woolridge, NWM founder, said: “We value the partnership with M-Sport and Ford Performance and the opportunity it has created to accelerate the development of our T1+ Ranger in preparation for the 2024 Dakar.
“This will allow us to showcase the performance and capabilities of our car on the international stage – we look forward to seeing how it fares.
“The original T1+ Ranger package was very good, and our own testing and development in South Africa and our participation in the South African Rally Raid Championship has already seen significant improvements and competitiveness.”
Orders are being taken for the new car from the start of August.