Team Ford Racing has confirmed it will enter two South African-built Ford Rangers in the grueling 2014 Dakar Rally, taking place in January in South America.
The Rangers are being prepared by Pietermaritzburg-based Neil Woolridge Motorsport while logistics will be handled by German-based South Racing. Similarly, the driver lineup is made up of international contenders, including South American native Lucio Alvarez and South African Chris Visser.
"We are extremely proud to be sending these South African-built Rangers to the 2014 Dakar," said Jeff Nemeth, president and CEO of Ford Motor Co. of Southern Africa, in a statement. "Dakar is the ultimate test of man and machine, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to participate with a phenomenal team comprised of [South African] and global expertise."
Ford's Global Products Development division assisted with designing the Rangers.
"A complex jigging system was used in the manufacturing process in order to ensure that each part is built to achieve the perfect fit on each of the vehicles built," team manager Neil Woolridge said in a statement. "Although the two new Rangers are [South African] built, we received tremendous support from our global counterparts, including the likes of Ford's SVT [Special Vehicle Team] division in the U.S."
One of the Rangers is already completed and will start exhaustive testing in August. The second is expected to be complete by the end of October. They will be supported by a team of 24 full-time staff in the quest for the top honors in the Dakar race.
Alvarez and Ronnie Graue have been confirmed as the first driving crew. They are part of a younger generation of drivers coming up in the sport and have delivered impressive results during previous Dakar races. South African Cross Country Championship competitors Visser and Japie Badenhorst make up the second Ranger team. The pair is currently leading the 2013 South Africa Donaldson Cross Country National Championship. This will be their first time competing in the Dakar.
The 35th running of the Dakar Rally begins Jan. 5, 2014, in Rosario, Argentina. This sixth successive South American running of the event will end Jan. 18 in Valparaiso, Chile. Drivers compete in 13 stages and cover more than 5,000 miles. The 2014 Dakar Rally continues its exploration of the Andes Mountains regions and travels through Bolivia for the first time.
Ford fans can keep track of the team's preparation for the race as well as the race itself on the Ford South Africa Facebook page. They also can join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram at #FordAtDakar.