Ford F-150 SVT Raptor Starts the 2011 Dakar Rally with Driver Sue Mead

Ford F-150 SVT Raptor Starts the 2011 Dakar Rally with Driver Sue Mead

While we’re still shaking off a restful break from the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, Sue Mead, Darren Skilton and the team supporting the FabSchool/General Tire Ford F-150 SVT Raptor are racing in the 2011 Dakar Rally in South America.

The Dakar Rally (formerly the Paris Dakar Rally) is the most grueling motorsports event in the world. Since 2009, it’s been run through the deserts and mountains of Chile and Argentina.

This year’s Dakar kicked off Saturday in Argentina, with an on-road rally from Buenos Aires to Victoria, before starting Stage 1 on Sunday in the first off-road leg from Victoria to Cordoba. The entire race, which runs through Jan. 16, is a 9,500-kilometer (5,903 miles) circuit from Buenos Aires to the Atacama Desert in Chile.

Mead, a freelance writer for, is well versed and experienced in off-road racing and has participated in the Dakar race once before as a co-driver. In 2000, she took part in the race when it was held in Africa, along with veteran off-road racers Darren Skilton and Troy Johnson racing for Kia. If you recall, that race was stopped by a terrorist threat, and many of the racers, including Mead’s team, were evacuated. Mead was also a support driver for Volkswagen in the 2009 Dakar Rally.


Mead and Skilton have been running against the clock since well before the green flag dropped at this year's Dakar Rally. They had to custom-fabricate hardware and line up sponsors in less than six months to get the F-150 ready for South America.

The FabSchool/General Tire Raptor (Truck No. 374) is outfitted with an ARB locker, King Shocks at each corner and wheels from Walker Evans Racing. Inside, there are Cobra seats with Crow harnesses. Under the hood, the 5.4-liter V-8 Raptor is mostly in factory form except for a pair of Odyssey batteries and Royal Purple Racing oil.

Mead and Skilton aren’t the only Raptor competing in this year’s Dakar. Javier Campillay and Pablo Rodríguez from the Tamarugal XC Rally Team (Truck No. 375) are racing in a Raptor for the second year after gaining notoriety for their effort in the 2010 Dakar Rally. Both teams will be collaborating to make sure the two Raptors cross under the checkered flag in 15 days.

So far, the FabSchool team is in 126th place, but the tough stuff is just getting started. Stay tuned for more updates in the coming weeks or follow along at the official Dakar website or on Facebook.



Why would they not be running with the 6.2 liter! I don't understand?

Going to be an interesting tussle in the stock pickup class. You have entries from Nissan, Isuzu,Mitsubishi and some Chinese manufacturers (who actually ran well in last years race)

@Len: Because it was free. From the previous article: "...were given a 2010 pre-production Molten Orange Raptor by Ford for the race."

MEH !!!
The Dakar logo doesnt look too good !!! Actually scares me,especially if I was on a plane with a person wearing that garb !!!

Hopefully Ford doesn't get special consideration in the event of issues this time.

Anyone know what channel is broadcasting the 2011 Dakar? Speed? any help would be greatly appreciated

Where' the typical IFS sucks comments?

You can catch some of the rally of Versus channel 603 if you have direct tv.


IFS has proven to be stronger than solid axle fronts, just ask the U.S. Marines and the bulk of the U.S. Army!

No wonder since the early 80's the U.S. military has been running them prior to even the HUMVEE and now medium and heavy wheeled tactical trucks are independent suspended.

You want speed and mobility, solid axles will NOT give you that.

I will take a SFA for towing. Thank you very much!

It's S.F.A., or NOWAY, for me!!!

I care more about strength than I do speed and comfort.

@Ken - Quote "Hopefully Ford doesn't get special consideration in the event of issues this time."

Not sure what you mean by that comment?
Correction - I know full well what you meant!

The Raptors that were in Baja with the 3.5 EB engines were supposed to race in the stock full class but Score made a separate class for them. Score has an issue with turbocharged trucks.(unfare competitive advantage??)

The race time limit was extened due to traps at the end of the race. It wasn't just Ford that got tangled in the traps.

@Small Vehicles Suck ! - that symbol has been used by the Dakar Rally for quite some time.

@Ken and Small vehicles suck - you both suffer from the condition of being uneducated, unaware, or uninformed.

Good luck to all of the competitors, support teams, and organizers in the 2011 Dakar.
I hope that the toughest race in the world does not claim any lives this year.

This is interesting. Why are they in the car category? I noticed Hummers and a Chevy in the car category too. Is it due to the 4 doors or other criteria?

@ford850 - support vehicles have to be in the truck category. Dakar considers Iveco, Mann and other large vehicles as "trucks" not pickups.


Just for the record, not trying to correct you or anything, the two EcoBoost F-150s that raced Baja were just standard F-150s. Neither of them, the regular cab F-150 for sure, were Raptors. Ford was promoting the EcoBoost engines not Raptors. Especially, since the EcoBoost engine is not available in the Raptor. The 6.2L is the sole engine available in the Raptor.

@Small Vehicles Suck ! - I'm a'scared of mummies too. heeheehee

@Lou: You're a legend in your own mind.

"Not sure what you mean by that comment?"
"Correction - I know full well what you meant!"

Correction - you still don't have a clue and I'm not wasting keystrokes to spoon feed you.

Buy American or say Bye to America,

Strength? Who says solid front axles are stronger than IFS?

Just ask the U.S. Marines, their newest tow trucks or wreckers like the MK36 is fully independent and the monster 10-axle LVSR wrecker which is also fully independent. Fully independent suspended trucks have no problems pulling weight on the battlefield...

Also note the backbone of the U.S. Army, the PLS, the newest version PLS-A1, both front axles are independent and they have incredible payloads and pull heavy trailers with NO problems while off-roading... hmmmmmm

I wonder why Navistar , the only US owned Big truck manufacturer does not enter the Dakar? They would get a worldwide audience on their efforts and at least raise their profile globally. Few in Europe and Asia have heard of Navistar.

Maybe the joint venture with Mahindra will be their entry. If you haven't heard of NC2 in your neck of the woods you should soon.

Good lord, we are comparing factory setups, not military grade heavy duty custom parts. Ever look at the difference between those Mk36 half-shaft vs a factory 1/2 ton? its like comparing a broom handle to a toothpick. Ofcoarse independent suspension can be strong, its just not very cost effective for mass production.

TY T Bone, I was going to say the same thing.


I could bet you with the weight as a %, these trucks would be no differant the MK36 nor a typical 1/2 ton. Meaning if the MK36 was the weight of a 1/2 ton, it would be comparable.

Don't be fooled by the shear size and weight of a MK36, it's suspension would be comparable as a % to as close to a 1/2 ton's.

Ofcourse it has to be bigger in size and mass, their is much more weight on a MK36 but it would be comparable.

Bottom line is the Pentagon is buying trucks with independent suspensions PROVING solid axle suspensions are a thing of the past and not desirable anymore to meet battlefield requirements.

That is also why you rarely see solid axle suspensions in off-road desert racing likewise. You want to win races or win on the battlefield? You better have independent suspensions or YOU LOSE!

you must of graduated from the BOB Academy of Applied logic!

@Buy American or say Bye to America - my bad. I had Raptor on the brain we=hen i made my post. thanks for clearing things up.

@ Robert Ryan -
I bet that a large number of Americans do not know the Dakar Rally exists.

@oxi -
What are the price tags per unit on the military vehicles you keep mentioning?
I bet they are double or triple the cost of a conventional civilian 6x6 unit.

@Lou, I would agree with that. Still , Navistar in collaboration with CAT is trying to establish markets in China and South America, where they either do not exist or have a fairly low profile. Paccar has DAF in the rally. DAF designed the new PACCAR MX engine, that is now being built in the US.

Lol @ oxi. He is always comparing IFS from the Military to Mass produced 1/2 ton trucks.

Thanks T-Bone.

Hook plows to todays IFS HD's versus a straight axle Oxi and get back to us.


Oxi & HD does not exist. He/She likes the little things.

@ Robert Ryan - a high profile event like the Dakar Rally would increase their wxposure to a world wide audience.

@Tom the NC2 was actually released here not long ago, being the first market for the NC2.
Australia is one of the key markets for NC2, the others being China, South America and presumably South Africa. The problem is a rehashed International chassis with a CAT, then a Maxxforce engine may or very much may not cut it in this market. Other markets have different problems with NC2. It is a brave attempt by Navistar and CAT to get a new Truck brand up and running globally, but the competition is ferocious. That is why they need a competitor in the Trucks section of the Dakar to get people globally to notice them.


One minute you are bashing American car companies, saying they can not hold a candle to the Japanese (Toyoda) car companies.

The next minute you are praising the U.S. military for the hard-core, American, equipment they are using.

Where is your loyalty?

American trucks are nice, and they are designed for the American market which has very few demands in toughness. Quality is great. Unfortunately they are not designed for real rough terrain that you would find in an international rally.

Don't believe me, ask Miller (VW Team), Roby Gordon (Hummer).

Ford did not make it to stage 3 (Day 4 of 16).

Toyota is not a great car, just mediocre at best for these conditions. Toyota cars do last under minor abuse, but they are really not fit for a Dakar. Just see how well they qualified.

VW Touareg, BMW X5, Nissan, Mini and Mitsubishi even Isuzu will outrace a Toyota or a Ford.

Hummer is the best american made vehicle, with Roby Gordon driving that barely managed 7th place.

The best american driver is Miller on a VW that took 2nd in 2009, but it was a German Team.

Considering the money behind these people, who have many sponsors and you compare that to a lonely driver like Bulacia from Bolivia with very limited resources, drives a standard production Mitsubishi yet qualifies in 31st position while Ford doesn't even make 100th (Gordon with all the sponsors and money is ranking 15th to 18th this time around) goes to show you how demanding it is, and how important it is to be a great driver, not just a wannabe.

The Dakar is made for real drivers, not ones that can put up a car and tweak the engine alone. You need a car that is tweaked, you need to learn to drive in an all terrain at 180mph and not make mistakes and be precise, as if you drive of the road you end up in the rear. American trucks are not made to withstand this beating even the Hummer and Ford have limited capability this way, not a real match for VW or BMW. Mini actually does better.

Now why is a smaller truck better, because the less inertia you have (less weight) the easier it is to handle curves at full throttle. With a larger truck its harder to compensate and take a fraction longer than a smaller one, so you are better off with the smallest engine that can deliver the best power that provides you more agility while driving. Why do I know this, I've done rally in South America. Help is 100 of miles away, you can't drive 15 miles to the nearest town for help, maybe to repair your tires, but that's about it. But if you can't repair your tires on the road, you better not be driving the Dakar.

Correction ,URAL Robby Gordons Hummer is as "stock" as the leading VW's. In his case a Baja Buggy with a Hummer body and a pretty large engine.
The performance of the Mini has been amazing. Also interesting is the performance of some very low buck efforts that would have less than 10th of the budgets spent by VW , BMW and Robby Gordon's Hummer team.

I personally would have gone with the hemi, but yes, I do agree the 6.4 would have been the better motor for the job. The 5.4 must work harder, thus should be less economic, and under more stress. Good luck to the team. It is high time a big block wins the Dakar!!!

They probably didn't have time to get their hands on the 6.2L to start working on the truck. The 5.4L version has been out a while. I'd put money on it that most if not all of the Raptors that are racing right now are sporting the 5.4L instead.

@Alf - If my memory serves me correctly - a 6.2 does not meet the definition of a "big block" engine.
Same can be said for GM's 6.2, 6.0, and Ram's 5.7.
All these engines are "small blocks".
Correct me if I"m wrong.


I will use Chevy as an example. Grew up around them.

Small Block: The smaller of a manufacturers two series of engines. In the case of Chevy, the small block includes the 262, 265, 267, 283, 302, 305, 307, 327, 350, and 400.

Big Block: The larger of a manufacturers two series of engines. In the case of Chevy, the 366, 396, 402, 427, and 454.

I also heard that my V10 is a small block.

@ Frank - my understanding of the difference is the thickness between the cylinders, overall block thinkness etc.
Small blocks were originally designed for light duty applications ie. cars.
Big blocks were designed primarily for industrial applications. They found their way into cars as racers found them to be more durable.
My memory of Ford engines would be:
small block - 260,289,302, Boss 302, 5 liter, 351 Windsor,5.8 liter.
Ford's flat head and Y block engines were before my time.
I always thought of the Cleveland and "M" engines as big blocks but liturature classifies them as in between a small and big block design.
big blocks - I'm more familiar with the Fe engines - 332/352/360/ 361/390/391/406/410/427/428 . Some liturature also classifies the Fe engines as in between small and big block engines.
The 'modular" engines would be the recently discontinued 4.6, 5.4 and V10.
I still see some hotrods running around with flathead V8's. They have a cool factor of 10+.
My favorites are the Fe series as that is what I grew up with.
My old '68 Galaxie 500 2 door coupe with 390 "police" engine was the scourge of 400 Trans Ams "back in the day".


I had a '67 Galaxy 500 390/C6. Awesome car! I sold it for a '68 Cougar 302/ci. Sold that for the Cobra. Great cars!

Don't why Ford called the 390 ci a big block and the 400M ci a small block.

Hopefully a gear-head can chime and shed some light on this topic.

@Buy American or say Bye to America:

Only the RegCab was. The SuperCab was the same Raptor R chassis from the previous year with an EcoBoost swapped in.


I stand corrected. I was going by the pictures of the Super Cab race truck. It does not have, as far as I can see, the Raptor: fender badge, hood vents, or grille. Upon further research I did read that this truck is a 2008 Raptor R chassis. The above styling cues were likely not developed/finalized yet when this truck was made?



Maybe Ivan "Ironman" Stewart will bring his old PPI-Toyota desert car out of retirement and fame and show the rally world how it is done...

Imagine if the PPI-Toyota team was down at Dakar, they would dominate like they did in the SCORE series for many years.

@Buy American or say Bye to America!

You know how many foreign parts are on U.S. military trucks these days? Quite a bit from China, Mexico, Canada, Israel, France, UK, Germany, Japan, South Korea and many more nations...

@Oxi, Ivan Stewart might find the competition a whole lot harder than in the Score days. Robby Gordon no slouch in Off Road racing, was disqualified today in the Dakar because his racer could not make the special stage.. He had a lot of problems in the stage before that with an accident and various wheel problems on the Hummer.

@ Oxi - Dakar and international rally rules do not allow the same kind of suspension travel and overall modifications that is allowed in Baja.
You would not be able to compete in a "high end" Baja rig.

Dakar is a different animal than Baja.
The racers travel anywhere from 400 to over 500 miles per day for 12 - 14 days.
That is like racing a Baja race every day for 14 days.

Americans have traditionally had a hard time with Dakar. Same goes for dirt bike ISDE (International Six Day Endurance) racing.

The other Raptor was DQ'ed. It wasn't clear if Mead was still in the race. Any news??

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