Ford’s Ranger T1+ will make its competitive debut at next week’s Baja Spain Aragon with Nani Roma and Gareth Woolridge confirmed to drive the two cars.
Spaniard Roma has been a constant in the development of a project jointly masterminded by M-Sport and Neil Woolridge Motorsport. The July 21/22 event is very much the next step in that cycle for a car which is not expected to challenge for outright Dakar success until 2025.
Two-time Dakar winner Roma said: “This has been a really nice process developing the Ranger T1+, the car has changed a lot since the first time I tested it compared to the last test we recently completed in Morocco.
“All the mechanics and engineers have done a super job in stabilizing the car while improving reliability and increasing its performance capability. We have been working together in a good direction, the Ranger is a strong car, we still have some points to work on but it’s in a great position right now.
“I always work to win in all the races I have entered in the 30 years I have been racing. I have won Baja Spain nine times, four on bikes and five in cars so it would be very special to win a tenth with Ford for this new project.
“Winning is always my goal and especially as it is my home race but this time it’s a little different. I haven’t competed for one and a half years, and I have very new surroundings.
“We don’t currently know exactly where we are compared to the other teams, the next Baja Spain has all of the factory players there which means it is the perfect opportunity to see where we are with our car.”
Roma added a special thanks to M-Sport’s Matthew and Malcolm Wilson, admitting to a long-time admiration for the British firm.
“I know M-Sport from years ago in the days of Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae when I was riding bikes, I was also following rallying,” he explained.
“M-Sport has always been a high-level team in the World Rally Championship fighting for wins and championships and they are a group of ultra-professional people who are very good to work with. The team is really organized and even though they are in a different environment that they are not used they have been quick to understand what is needed to take on this challenge.
“I would like to say a special thank you to Matt Wilson and Malcolm Wilson as well as Ford for having this confidence in me. Now it’s time to continue pushing hard and start fighting.”
Roma’s team-mate oolridge starts Baja Spain Aragon fresh from his victory on the 1000km Kalahari-Botswana Desert Race.
As well as driving, he has played a leading role in the design, manufacture and testing of the EcoBoost V6-powered T1 Ranger since the project began in 2019, followed up by the T1+ Ranger project in 2021.
Woolridge said: “We have completed a series of extensive test sessions with M-Sport and NWM in South Africa, Dubai and Morocco, and with the upgrades we have added, largely with cooling and dampers, it has made a huge difference in the performance of the car. For Spain, it’s a very new event for Boyd [Dreyer, co-driver] and I.
“The format is a bit different which we will need to get used to, but the terrain will be similar to some places we have raced at before and we are hoping to just go and learn with the team.
“It’s our first competitive outing together with M-Sport so the aim is to go there, learn, work, and build our strength together as a team to deliver a good strong result. The most important goal for us is getting to the end in a good strong position.”
M-Sport director Matthew Wilson added: “We have been working very hard collaboratively with NWM for just over a year now and we’re finally seeing the elements fall into place for our rally raid team. We are ready to start competing with our comprehensively updated Ford Ranger T1+ and a pair of very accomplished rally raid drivers in Nani and Gareth.
“M-Sport and NWM have now laid down what appears to be a solid technical foundation with the support and input of Nani and Gareth. The next step is for us to start competing and developing ourselves as a team which starts with Baja Spain.”