M-Sport finishes seventh on its rally raid debut

Nasser Al-Attiyah won the Baja Aragón as Nani Roma brought his Ranger home safely

Ford Ranger TestingMorocco20th – 21st June 2023Photo: Drew Gibson

M-Sport’s Ford Ranger T1+ reached the finish in seventh of its maiden rally raid event, the Baja Aragón, which was won by Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel for the fifth time.

Nani Roma and navigator Alex Haro Bravo were the highest-placed M-Sport car, while Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer finished 12th.

Overdrive Racing’s Lucas Moraes and Timo Gottschalk continued their impressive form from this year’s Dakar Rally by finishing second in their Toyota Hilux T1+, while T4 Side-by-Side world champion Rokas Baciuška was 10th on his first T1 appearance.

Totalling almost 339 miles across two days, the Baja España Aragón was the fourth round of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Bajas. Audi Sport entered all three of its RS Q e-tron E2 machines and topped the prologue courtesy of Mattias Ekström and Emil Bergkvist.

Carlos SAINZ & Lucas CRUZ

But their event was curtailed after the third stage, retiring with a damaged power steering sump following a precarious water crossing.

The second Audi of Stéphane Peterhansel and Edouard Boulanger – contesting his first event since injuring his back during the Dakar Rally – also retired after encountering electric drive issues caused by a faulty sensor.

Carlos Sainz did reach the finish in third – although competing as a non-scoring entry – behind Al-Attiyah and Moraes, despite picking up two punctures.

“For the whole team, the rally was productive,” Sainz said. “Now we have to check various small things. Our team has now contested its first Baja. The main goal was to learn a lot.”

For M-Sport, this was a baja full of learnings as the team – which is collaborating with Neil Woolridge Motorsport in its rally raid foray – gets to grips with the latest spec Ford Ranger T1+.

Roma placed eighth in the prologue, just 8.4s down on Ekström’s best before setting the sixth-fastest time on the first stage, the 179km Cuevas Labradas test. Having dropped just over three minutes on the opening day, Roma and Haro attacked Saturday’s pair of timed selective sections with renewed vigor and leapt to fourth in the overall standings, seven minutes shy of Al-Attiyah who had moved past Moraes by a minute.

Nasser Al-Attiyah & Mathieu Baumel

The final stage from Monreal to Gea was less successful for Roma, who lost five minutes and several positions. Despite this, the crew achieved a top 10 finish as Woolridge moved up a spot on the final test.

In the battle for overall honors, Moraes turned the form book on its head with a stunning opening day’s stage, beating Al-Attiyah – who lost valuable after getting stuck behind Yazeed Al Rajh and Tiago Reis – by 21s before slipping back on the first stage of day two.

Al-Attiyah, making the most of a favorable road order, extended his margin out front in the third stage, eventually winning by 1m43s.

Vaidotas Zala finished fourth overall but third in the FIA World Cup standings in his Mini Cooper All 4 Rally.

Words:Stephen Brunsdon