Sainz confirmed for Ford’s Dakar assault

Two-time world champion’s incredible motorsport career continues back where it all started


Carlos Sainz’s sensational return to Ford has been confirmed, with the four-time Dakar winner joined by countryman Nani Roma.

The two Spaniards represent half of a four-strong team set to drive the all-new M-Sport-designed and built Dakar Raptors in Saudi Arabia next January.

Sainz told DirtFish last month that he was closing on a deal to return to the brand he’s had ties with since he began his life in professional motorsport in 1987, when he drove a Ford Sierra RS Cosworth – winning the first ever World Rally Championship stage he tackled at Rally de Portugal, 37 years ago.

Talking about his return to Ford Performance, the two time world champion said: “I’m very excited by this new Dakar project.

“To go back to working with Ford for the fourth time, and to return to M-Sport, to return to Malcolm [Wilson, M-Sport managing director] who I know very well, it’s really great to be back. My history with Ford goes all the way back to ’87, and I think I was Malcolm’s first driver, his first-ever factory driver. I’m very proud of that. I’m really excited to be driving the Raptor truck, and to approach this big challenge with a lot of goals.

“One [goal] is to help Ford win the Dakar.”

Dakar Raptor

M-Sport's all-new Ford Dakar Raptor has begun its testing program already. But soon enough the woods will be swapped for the dunes

M-Sport director and Dakar team manager Matthew Wilson admitted Sainz’s return has delivered further confidence to the team testing and developing the Raptor.

“Carlos,” said the Cumbrian, “is a legend of our sport and one of the most successful drivers across all formats of off-road racing. His decision to return to Ford and M-Sport after so many years is a huge boost for the team. It’s great to have him back in the extended Ford family ready to take on the huge challenge Dakar presents.

“With testing well under way, we have a great chance now to learn from the best and push the development of the Ford Raptor forward even further.”

Like Sainz, Roma is a multiple Dakar winner, having taken two career victories on the off-road marathon event. He extends his contract with Ford Performance, after contesting this year’s event in a T1+ Ranger built and run in collaboration between Ford, M-Sport and Neil Woolridge Motorsport.

DAKAR 2024 - STAGE 12

Roma (left) stays on at M-Sport where he is joined by Sainz, who won this year's Dakar for Audi

Roma said: “It’s a great pleasure to be involved in this huge project, and with an iconic motorsport brand like Ford.

“Coupled with a team like M-Sport, with its history and legacy in the sport, to create something completely new, I can say it’s been a very exciting few months already. The next Dakar is not far [away], so now it’s time to work really hard. Alex [Haro, co-driver] and I are so happy to be surrounded by super-dedicated and talented engineers, mechanics and the wider team. We get to wake up every day and do what we love with people that have the same passion – it’s the best feeling.”

On retaining Roma, Wilson added: “It is such a pleasure to welcome Nani back to the team after a great run this year in the Ranger T1+ in Dakar.

“His experience and knowledge were invaluable to us and I’m sure we will continue to learn from him as this exciting program moves forwards.”

Testing of the Raptor began last month, with a limited program of off-road events likely to be entered in preparation for next year’s Dakar. October’s World Rally-Raid Championship finale – Rallye du Maroc – is now widely seen as the loosener for the Saudi event in January.