M-Sport joins forces with Ford ahead of the next Dakar Rally

The Ford-supported and World Rally Championship team M-Sport, has joined forces with Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM), the South African structure that builds the Ford Ranger T1+. Both parties will jointly develop and manage the new version of the Ford Ranger according to the T1+ Dakar Rally specifications for their category. 

Initially, the British team will deal with the maintenance and management of the vehicles, and even with their assembly, while the South Africans are to take care of the development of the car in their country. 

To facilitate their technical and logistics support, as well as the maintenance of spare parts, MWM will locate its European headquarters at the M-Sport facilities in Cumbria (United Kingdom), while the latter will be able to supply potential customers and become the world distributor of the Ford Ranger model, which currently competes in the South African Cross-Country Championship. 

The first step on the long road to the desert rally is the setting up of a customer support program based at the facilities of the English WRC team in Cumbria. 

In addition to this, M-Sport will collaborate with Neil Woolridge Motorsport in the development of the NWM Ford Ranger T1+ through testing as well as collecting feedback from those customer programmes. 

It is estimated that the first Ford Ranger T1 + will arrive in Europe at the end of May and will be available for a customer testing program soon after that. 

As for when M-Sport will be able to reach its goal of debuting in the Dakar with the Ranger, this remains unknown. In the press release that announced their alliance with Neil Woolridge Motorsport, they define the challenge as a ‘long-term goal‘, while acknowledging that there are years of work and development ahead, including “the development of an adequate infrastructure”. 

M-Sport & NWM, very excited with the deal

“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,” said M-Sport managing director Malcolm Wilson, who recently visited NWM’s base with son and M-Sport director Matthew Wilson.

“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 unrivalled 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.”

NWM owner Neil Woolridge said: “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 line-up with, which is something M-Sport has demonstrated it can create and strengthen.”

Images: M-Sport.

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