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Dakar Dakar

Two-time Dakar winner to lead M-Sport’s Rally Raid debut

Two-time Dakar Rally winner Nani Roma will lead M-Sport’s attack as its 2024 Dakar Rally challenger makes its international competitive debut in Spain this month. 

M-Sport NWM Ford Ranger T1+

M-Sport has been developing Ford Ranger T1+ alongside Neil Woolridge Motorsport [NWM] and Ford Performance to tackle next year’s Dakar Rally, which will be a first for the British squad. The next stage of this venture will see the operation debut the Ranger it has developed for next year's Dakar at the Baja Spain Aragon Rally from 21-22 July.

This is the first step of a plan for a full factory-backed Ford effort to take on the Dakar in all-new Ranger T1+ in 2025, supported by M-Sport and NWM. 

Veteran competitor Roma will be one of two drivers to pilot the Ranger in Spain alongside Gareth Woolridge. Roma is one of a select few to have won the Dakar Rally on both two wheels and four, scoring his first triumph on a bike in 2004, before winning the car category in 2014 with Mini.

Roma has been a key member of the M-Sport and NWM development squad, with the Spaniard offering his extensive experience having made 25 Dakar starts. 

“This has been a really nice process developing the Ranger T1+, the car has changed a lot since first time I tested it compared to the last test we recently completed in Morocco,” said Roma.

“All the mechanics and engineers have done a super job in stabilising the car while improving reliability and increasing its performance capability. We have been working together in a good direction, the Ranger is a strong car, we still have some points to work on but it’s in a great position right now.

“I know M-Sport from years ago in the days of Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae when I was riding bikes, I was also following rallying. M-Sport has always been a high-level team in the World Rally Championship fighting for wins and championships and they are a group of ultra-professional people who are very good to work with. 

Nani Roma, M-Sport NWM

Nani Roma, M-Sport NWM

Photo by: M-Sport

“The team is really organised and even though they are in a different environment that they are not used to, they have been quick to understand what is needed to take on this challenge.

“I always work to win in all the races I have entered in the 30 years I have been racing. I have won Baja Spain nine times, four on bikes and five in cars so it would be very special to win a tenth with Ford for this new project.”

Roma’s team-mate Woolridge is currently leading the South African Rally Raid Championship and recently triumphed in the 1,000km Kalahari-Botswana Desert Race.

Woolridge is the lead technician for new vehicle assembly at NWM and one of the team’s two drivers competing in the South African series. 

He has played a central role in the design, manufacturing, testing and development of the EcoBoost V6-powered T1 Ranger since the project began in 2019, followed up by the T1+ Ranger project in 2021.

"We have completed a series of extensive test sessions with M-Sport and NWM in South Africa, Dubai and Morocco, and with the upgrades we have added, largely with cooling and dampers, it has made a huge difference in the performance of the car,” said Woolridge.

“It’s our first competitive outing together with M-Sport so the aim is to go there, learn, work, and build our strength together as a team to deliver a good strong result. The most important goal for us is getting to the end in a good strong position.”

M-Sport NWM Ford Ranger T1+

M-Sport NWM Ford Ranger T1+

Photo by: M-Sport

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