Team Ford Racing has made its official Dakar Rally debut with two Ford Rangers. Taking place January 5-18 in South America, the 2014 competition is the 35th running of the grueling event and the sixth successive running in South America, starting in Rosario, Argentina on January 5 and finishing in Valparaiso, Chile on January 18 after thirteen stages of competition covering a total distance of over 9,300 km (5,778 miles).
Underlining the global nature of the undertaking, the team responsible for bringing to fruition the two purpose-built Rangers to Dakar is comprised of 27 people from 10 nationalities. Pietermaritzburg-based Neil Woolridge Motorsport being responsible for developing the vehicles while Germany-based South Racing was responsible for logistics.
Similarly, the driver and navigator line-up is just as internationally-diverse.
Lucio Alvarez and co-driver Ronnie Graue will man the T1-specification Ford Ranger with start number 308. The duo has delivered impressive results on previous runnings of the Dakar: in their first race in 2011, they finished 15th overall while managing to finish in an impressive fifth place in 2012. In 2013, the duo was in third overall before mechanical problems dropped them down to 27th place. Demonstrating high levels of determination and skill, Alvarez and Graue fought back up to finish tenth.
The second Ford Ranger (start number 329) is crewed by South African Cross Country competitors Chris Visser and navigator Japie Badenhorst. Both are well-known in South African motorsport, having won the 2010 South African Cross Country Championship. The duo also finished the 2012 and 2013 seasons second overall. 2014 will mark their first time competing on the Dakar.
With over 1 billion TV viewers from across the globe tuning in to watch the 2013 Dakar and 4.6 million spectators making their way to South America to witness the feat, the 2014 race should give the Ford Motor Company and the Ranger some good publicity.
Here’s to wishing all the competitors as well as Team Ford Racing good luck.