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M-Sport sets sights on Dakar in new Ford rally raid venture

M-Sport plans to enter the rally raid arena as part of a new collaboration with Neil Woolridge Motorsport that intends to contest the famous Dakar Rally in the future.

Neil Woolridge Motorsport Ford Ranger by M-Sport

Photo by: M-Sport

The British-based World Rally Championship squad has joined forces with fellow Ford supported team and renowned South African rally raid manufacturer NWM, which currently constructs Ford Ranger T1+ vehicles.

The partnership will see M-Sport and NWM share their resources and collaborate to help with the development of the Ranger T1+ rally raid racer. Both teams boast a 25-year association with the blue oval brand.

M-Sport will become NWM’s European headquarters and global distributor for the Ranger which currently competes in the South African Cross Country Championship. The first step of the pathway to the Dakar Rally is to set up a customer support programme based from M-Sport’s base in Dovenby, Cumbria.

In addition to customer support, M-Sport will collaborate with NWM on the development of the NWM Ford Ranger T1+, through testing and collecting feedback from any customer programmes.

The first NWM Ford Ranger T1+ is expected to arrive in Europe at the end of May and will be available for a testing and customer programme shortly afterwards.

Neil Woolridge Motorsport Ford Ranger by M-Sport

Neil Woolridge Motorsport Ford Ranger by M-Sport

Photo by: M-Sport

M-Sport’s announcement neglected to list a definitive timeframe for achieving its target of competing in the Dakar Rally with the Ranger, labelling the event as a “long term goal” while confirming “years of work and development lie ahead including developing the right infrastructure” before it can tackle the event.

“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,” said M-Sport managing director Malcolm Wilson, who recently visited NWM’s base with son and M-Sport director Matthew Wilson.

“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.”

Neil Woolridge Motorsport Ford Ranger by M-Sport

Neil Woolridge Motorsport Ford Ranger by M-Sport

Photo by: M-Sport

NWM owner Neil Woolridge added: “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.”

This latest venture for M-Sport will add to its operation that currently consists of a semi-factory Ford backed WRC assault alongside the production and development of customer Rally2 and Rally3 vehicles.

It also further strengthens its ties with Ford with the news coming shortly after the blue oval’s CEO Jim Farley visited M-Sport’s headquarters.

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