M-Sport makes first step towards Dakar future

A new partnership with rally-raid specialists NWM is a first step towards M-Sport making its Dakar Rally debut

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M-Sport will make its first steps into the world of rally-raid, teaming up with Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) to become the global distributor of NWM’s Ford Ranger T1+ and eventually compete in the Dakar Rally.

M-Sport will become the European HQ for South African team NWM as the two firms link up in order to create a rally-raid customer-faced program based at M-Sport to sit alongside its well-established rally operation.

Like M-Sport, NWM is an independent team with a long-standing relationship with Ford. Together, the two teams have a shared long-term goal to eventually contest the Dakar Rally.

“Myself and Matthew have recently been out to South Africa to meet Neil Woolridge and his sons and discuss their Ford Ranger T1+,” said M-Sport managing director Malcolm Wilson.

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“It’s a momentous and exciting prospect for me, after almost 45 years in the rally business, rally-raid and Dakar has always piqued my interest. It is a discipline that I do not underestimate though, and I am all too aware it requires years of experience and expertise.

“M-Sport and NWM have a shared vision, we feel that our respective outfits complement each other in a way that would create an unrivaled rally raid outfit. The NWM Ranger has definite potential, it is built on a very solid foundation, Matthew tested the car during our visit and was very positive about his experience.

“It’s fair to say I’m not one to stray away from a challenge, it’s what I love about motorsport and it’s no secret we have some work to do to contend for the prestigious Dakar Rally.

“That said, I am confident that M-Sport and NWM have the tools and know-how to push the Ford Ranger T1+ to new heights.”

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Neil Woolridge, owner of the eponymous NWM team, added: “This is a landmark moment for NWM and a proud moment for me personally. I have always admired Malcolm from afar and M-Sport is an outfit I’ve always wanted to collaborate with for a variety of reasons.

“Our Ranger T1+ is a vehicle we are looking forward to developing and building a strong customer lineup with, which is something M-Sport has demonstrated it can create and strengthen. Our T1+ Ranger is built on the reliable and well-tested foundation of our previous-generation Ranger and as such, places our new vehicle on a great starting level of performance in comparison to the competition.

“It was great to welcome Malcolm and Matthew to our HQ as well as offering them the opportunity to see the Ranger T1+ in action. Matthew raised some interesting development directions which have already underlined the significance of the expertise we are bringing on board by partnering with M-Sport.”

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M-Sport will work with NWM to test and develop the Ranger T1+, with the South African Rally Raid Championship a likely competition testbed for the car. Veloce Extreme E driver Lance Woolridge and his brother Gareth – sons of team owner Neil – will do the driving.

It’s the latest in a long line of new projects for M-Sport which has recently partnered with Ford Performance to develop a Mustang GT3 race car for the IMSA series in the US, and from this year will also supply the TOCA engine for teams in the British Touring Car Championship.