Locally built Ford Ranger destined for Dakar debut

Pietermaritzburg based Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) has entered into a joint venture with well-respected British motorsport outfit M-Sport.

NWM is a world-renowned manufacturer of Rally Raid vehicles and like M-Sport, the developers of vehicles for global motorsport competition series like the World Rally Championship, have a long and storied association with Ford.

This joint venture will see M-Sport become NWM’s European HQ and global distributor for the NWM Ford Ranger T1+ vehicle.

The partnership sees the two iconic independent manufacturers come together with a long-term goal of taking on the world-renowned Dakar Rally while developing a world-class rally raid customer programme.

“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. 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. Consequently, we can use the South African Rally Raid Championship as a test bed for our vehicle directly against our competitors which gives us the confidence to take our vehicle to the world stage,” said Neil Woolridge, Neil Woolridge Motorsport owner.

The Dakar Rally has been a long-term ambition of both M-Sport and NWM and this latest partnership could pave the way for both parties to finally realise their goal and ultimately put together a competitive entry to challenge for victory.

Furthermore the partnership allows both of these motorsport entities to share their technical abilities and resources that have been developed through 25 uninterrupted years of working in direct conjunction with Ford.

“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 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,” said Malcolm Wilson OBE, M-Sport Managing Director.

While the goal of a Dakar assault is on the horizon, years of work and development lie ahead, which includes developing the right infrastructure. The first step is for M-Sport to begin a customer support programme based at their headquarters in Dovenby, Cumbria. In addition M-Sport will collaborate with NWM on the development of the Ford Ranger T1+, through testing and collective feedback from any customer programmes. The first NWM Ford Ranger T1+ is expected to arrive in Europe at the end of May.