Inside Ford’s Mach-E Rally launch at DirtFish

Brenten Kelly has spent the last decade driving - and being driven - at DirtFish, but he still managed to surprise himself


It’s 1994 and my dad has just told me we’re going to Detroit. I like that. We’re going on a plane. Even better, we’re coming back by car.

And not just any car. We’re heading home – northbound to Alpena – in a V8 Ford Mustang 5.0, the 25th Anniversary edition. I had no idea what we were doing, this whole thing was a surprise to me. We bought the car from the guy who had filmed the official Ford commercial to commemorate the anniversary; he even gave us a VHS tape of the advert.

Top down, every intersection we got to, dad was giving it some revs. It was so cool.

Born and brought up in Michigan, Ford’s Mustang has always been special to me. Even in school, we’d learn more about the history of Ford because it was so local to us.

So, when I was asked if I wanted to join Ford’s Mustang Mach-E Rally program for a day, I genuinely jumped at the chance. Even better, it was based out of the best place on earth to drive cars: DirtFish.

Ford was using the school to demonstrate the capabilities of the Mach-E, a process which genuinely helped put the rally into the Mach-E Rally.

Today’s car is, of course, a very different pony to the one dad bought almost 30 years ago. To start with, it’s eight cylinders down on what still sits in the Kelly family garage. But it’s so, so much faster.

Ahead of the Ford day, my experience of electric vehicles was pretty limited. Honestly? I’d driven a couple of golf buggies.

How hard could it be?

Actually, it couldn’t be easier. Cruising down the highway with Blue Cruise deployed, I wasn’t sure what to do with my hands given that they were no longer required on the steering wheel – see, that easy!

Driving the Mach-E on the road was a genuine eye-opener. It was big, comfortable and fast. From the outside it looked super-cool, with big wheels and a kind of rallycross vibe going on to the shape. I really liked it. But I really wanted to get it on the dirt.


I’ve been driving – and been driven in – school cars for more than 10 years. I honestly didn’t think anything could surprise me at DirtFish anymore. Stepping in alongside my co-worker, head instructor Jack Harrison, I couldn’t help but notice the big grin on his face. Jack knew what I was in for.

“This,” he told me, “is one cool car.”

The DirtFish instructors were on hand to give general guidance and advice on driving the car and, obviously, to help the journalists check out the beautiful property. It was kind of odd having my buddy teaching me, but really helpful with some of the early aspects of getting the car dialed.

I wasn’t sure what to expect at all. I mean there’s no denying, the Mach-E is a fairly heavy car, weighing in at around 6,000 pounds (2,700 kilos). What would that feel like when it started to slide?

Awesome. It’s the only word that works. The weight thing was only vaguely noticeable under heavy braking, certainly not under acceleration. Sending 480bhp off the line… on gravel and on all-terrain tires was one of the most eye-opening experiences ever! The thing just hunkered down and went.

Like, gone.

With 480bhp, the thing just hunkered down and went Brenten Kelly

When you run the RX mode, you get even better throttle response and some electronic magic which helps you slide the car and really play with it. It gives everybody an insight into what it’s like to be Adrien Fourmaux.

And just when you might have thought you really were Fourmaux, the Frenchman himself turned up and did another inch-perfect 360 on the slalom course – just to remind us that there really was only one Adrien Fourmaux.

Having a World Rally Championship star at the school was amazing. Adrien’s a very cool and super-talented guy, being able to hang out with him for a while at DirtFish was awesome. But seeing what he could do in a Mach-E really helped me understand what makes these elite WRC drivers stand out. It was the same with Formula Drift star Vaughn Gittin Jr – going for a lap with him was outstanding.

I also can’t tell you how cool it was to see Ford at the school too. Like I said, I’ve grown up surrounded by Ford and the Blue Oval culture, but this Mach-E Rally is a special car.

Lombard Rac Rally 1986, bath (Gb) 16-20 11 1986

BK draws comparisons between Ford's extraordinary RS200 and today's all-new Mustang Mach-E Rally

It really feels like a Mustang for every generation. Like I said, my dad’s still got the V8 in the garage, but he’s now all-in for a shot in the Mach-E. He wants to know what it’s like. He’s talking to his friends about the car, and they’re all interested – these are the NASCAR guys who wouldn’t have had too much interest in EVs before this Mustang landed.

There’s even more to it than that. Driving the Mach-E Rally and just understanding what life’s like with almost 500bhp on the road, I started to wonder if this is the most rally-oriented car Ford has brought to America since the RS200? OK, not many of those Group B cars ever made it to the road, but we’re fortunate in that DirtFish owner Steve Rimmer has a roadgoing version of that car.

I know there have been Fiestas and Focuses with plenty of power, but they were cars made for the European market. The Mustang is all-American and now it’s an all-American rally car for the road.

Looks like somebody taught the pony some new tricks.