Ford announces Ranger Raptor T1+ will race at Dakar Rally 2024 in Saudi Arabia

Ford have announced that their Ranger Raptor T1+ will race at Dakar Rally 2024 in Saudi. (Ford)
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Updated 14 June 2023
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Ford announces Ranger Raptor T1+ will race at Dakar Rally 2024 in Saudi Arabia

  • Ford Performance set to expand global motorsports effort by competing in the legendary rally, one of the toughest off-road competitions
  • The American manufacturer recently partnered with F1 champions Oracle Red Bull Racing and over the weekend took part in 24 Hours of Le Mans

DUBAI: An extreme racing version of the Ford Ranger will lead the expansion of Ford Performance global off-road racing to include the iconic Dakar Rally in 2024 and beyond.

Ford Performance has raced and won from Le Mans to Monaco, Daytona to Bathurst and Finke to Ensenada, but it has yet to take on one of the toughest races on the planet — the Dakar Rally, which in January 2024 will be hosted for the fourth year running in Saudi Arabia.

“I think we are committed to this cycle plan that we have in motorsports and always looking for more opportunities where it makes sense, where we can deliver on our pillars, which includes the engineering innovation, tech transfer, the marketing, tying into our name plates and to different regions of the world,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance Motorsports.

Ford’s commitments recently saw the American manufacturer announce its return to Formula One with reigning world champions Oracle Red Bull Racing from 2026, and over the weekend took part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Now it is set to take on the Saudi dunes.

“I was there myself for Dakar earlier this year to see and understand what we had committed to already at that point in time,” Rushbrook added. “And it was fantastic to see the infrastructure that is there, the commitment from Saudi to motorsports, in so many different disciplines. So definitely appreciate the opportunity to compete there.”

The first step in the multi-year plan to compete in the Dakar Rally is to finish and learn in collaboration with longtime partners M-Sport and Neil Woolridge Motorsport for vehicle development, servicing and event management.

“To lead the charge at one of the ultimate global off-road events — the Dakar Rally — has been a goal of ours,” said Rushbrook. “We cannot underestimate the enormity of the challenge ahead of us. We need to finish and learn first with Ranger T1+ and partners like M-Sport and NWM, who bring their expertise to bear. Together, we can do amazing things in the sand dunes of the Arabian Peninsula.”

Leading the charge into the 2024 Dakar Rally, taking place Jan. 5-19 in Saudi Arabia, will be a purpose-built, high-performance Ford Ranger racing in the Rally Raid T1+ category.

The joint Ford Performance, M-Sport and NWM team has implemented a series of development phases through 2023 and continues testing with the Ranger T1+, based on the previous generation global Ranger, with a 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine.

Test races are expected to include Spain’s Baja Espana Aragon and Morocco’s Rally du Maroc rallies in July and October, respectively, before tackling the Dakar Rally next year.

“Our first time in Dakar will be a learning adventure that will help inform how we compete in the future,” said Rushbrook. “But as with all racing, we’re not just racing to win, we’re also racing to help build better products for our customers.”

For the 2025 Dakar Rally, Ford Performance and M-Sport are developing an all-new, custom-built Ranger Raptor designed to Dakar’s T1+ class regulations.

“The Dakar Rally is truly among the pinnacle of global off-road racing events,” said Malcom Wilson, M-Sport managing director. “We’ve achieved great success over the years with Ford in FIA WRC and can’t wait to apply this same level of focus, energy and effort to competing with Ranger in Dakar.”

M-Sport is well regarded as a leading developer and campaigner of the M-Sport Ford Puma HybridRally1 in the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile’s World Rally Championship, as well as engine builder for the Mustang GT3 program. NWM has played a pivotal role since the infancy of the Rally-Raid Ranger, as the team developed and built units at its facility in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, specified to compete in full Dakar T1+ regulations in the South African Rally-Raid Championship and around the world.


International drivers from Saudi Arabia, Iran, US, rev up for Pakistan Cholistan Desert Rally

Updated 23 February 2024
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International drivers from Saudi Arabia, Iran, US, rev up for Pakistan Cholistan Desert Rally

  • The annual 19th Cholistan Desert Jeep Rally started in Bahawalpur this week
  • Over 150 racing enthusiasts from Pakistan and abroad are participating this year

ISLAMABAD: The annual 19th Cholistan Desert Jeep Rally started in Bahawalpur this week, with over 150 racing enthusiasts from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other countries participating.
The Cholistan Desert in southern Punjab forms part of the Greater Thar Desert, which extends to Pakistan’s southern Sindh province and the Indian state of Rajasthan. Cholistan was once a center for caravan trade, leading to the construction of numerous forts in the medieval period to protect trade routes, of which the Derawar Fort in Bahawalpur is the best-preserved example.
The 19th edition of the desert rally, which spreads over 500 kilometers, started on Tuesday. Drivers from Saudi Arabia, the UK, Afghanistan, Iran, and the US are participating this year, Managing Director of Tourism Development Corporation of Punjab (TDCP) Humaira Akram told state-run APP.
“The women’s category has been made more active,” the official said. “The event will highlight the history and culture of the Cholistan Desert, the historical palaces of Bahawalpur, historical buildings, historical backgrounds, tourism, and culture through beautiful cultural dances in addition to light and sound shows.”
A qualifying round was held in Cholistan on February 22, followed by the first round of prepared cars on February 23, and a stock category race along with a dirt bike race on February 24, followed by a cultural show.
“On February 25, the prepared category race and truck race will take place, followed by the prize distribution ceremony,” Additional Deputy Commissioner Headquarters Sumera Rabani told media.
“The Cholistan Fort will be adorned with beautiful decorations during the Cholistan Rally. The Sports Department will organize competitions including Kabaddi, traditional wrestling, volleyball, and tug of war.”


Hamilton insists Mercedes story can end on a high

Updated 23 February 2024
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Hamilton insists Mercedes story can end on a high

  • The 39-year-old Briton has been with Mercedes since 2013
  • “An opportunity came up in the New Year and I decided to take it,” Hamilton said

SAKHIR, Bahrain: Seven-time Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton says his switch to Ferrari programmed for 2025 will add a brand new chapter to his sparkling career, but insisted he hopes to leave Mercedes on a high.
The 39-year-old Briton has been with Mercedes since 2013, but recently activated a break clause to seal a move to the Italian team in 2025.
“An opportunity came up in the New Year and I decided to take it,” Hamilton said, describing the decision as the hardest he’d ever faced.
“We have had an incredible journey together, created history within the sport and it is something I take a lot of pride in,” he said.
Hamilton — without a win in two years — won six of his record-equalling seven world championships with the Silver Arrows.
“This chapter is still not finished and I am still 100 percent focused on delivering for this team,” he insisted Friday.
Mercedes have struggled to match their rival Max Verstappen of Red Bull since Hamilton missed out on what would have been a record eighth world championship in 2021 in controversial fashion.
Current Formula One world champion Verstappen won 19 out of last season’s 22 races as he surged toward a third consecutive Drivers’ Championship.
The opening Grand Prix of the F1 season is set for Bahrain on March 2.


Verstappen dominates testing as Wolff says Horner probe ‘issue for all F1’

Updated 22 February 2024
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Verstappen dominates testing as Wolff says Horner probe ‘issue for all F1’

  • The Red Bull driver was more than a second faster than Lando Norris in a McLaren
  • Verstappen’s performance was a boost for a Red Bull team reeling from an investigation into team chief Christian Horner who has been accused of “inappropriate behavior” by a female member of staff

SAKHIR: Three-time world champion Max Verstappen gave his struggling rivals little hope for optimism ahead of the new Formula One season when he dominated the first day of winter testing on Wednesday.

The Red Bull driver was more than a second faster than Lando Norris in a McLaren with Carlos Sainz, about to start his final year as a Ferrari driver, in third spot at the Sakhir track where the season-opener takes place on March 2.

Sainz will lose his seat at Ferrari to seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton who is entering his last campaign behind the wheel of a Mercedes. Hamilton will be in action on Thursday.

Verstappen’s performance was a boost for a Red Bull team reeling from an investigation into team chief Christian Horner who has been accused of “inappropriate behavior” by a female member of staff.

“It feels good to be back in an F1 car again and I had fun out on track today. We covered a lot of laps and tried quite a few things with the car, which was important, so happy overall with how it went,” said Verstappen.

Horner faced questioning for eight hours at an internal hearing in London earlier in February after allegations emerged in the Dutch press of a complaint being made against the 50-year-old Englishman by a female employee.

Horner categorically denies the accusation while Formula One chiefs said they want the issue resolved at the “earliest opportunity.”

Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff described the investigation as “an issue for all of Formula One.”

“Red Bull has started as an independent investigation, if this is done in the right way with transparency and with rigour, I think that’s something that we need to look at — what the outcomes are and what it means for Formula One, and how we can learn from that,” Wolff told a news conference.

“We want to talk about racing cars and we want to talk about the sport rather than these kind of very critical topics, that are more just a team’s issue, it’s a phenomenon or it’s an issue for all of Formula One and in general for every individual that works out there.”

Horner is scheduled to appear at a press conference in Bahrain on Thursday.

At the launch of this season’s Red Bull car held last week, he insisted he had no intention of resigning.

“No. It’s business as usual,” he said. “There obviously is a process.

“Obviously, I fully deny any accusations that have been made against me but of course I’ll work with that process, which I hope is concluded in the near future.”

Testing times on the first day of three on Wednesday:

1. Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull) 1:31.344 sec (143 laps,

2. Lando Norris (GBR/McLaren) +1.140 (73),

3. Carlos Sainz (ESP/Ferrari) +1.240 (69),

4. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Racing Bulls) +1.255 (52),

5. Pierre Gasly (FRA/Alpine) +1.461 (61),

6. Lance Stroll (CAN/Aston Martin) +1.663 (54),

7. Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari) +1.903 (64),

8. Fernando Alonso (ESP/Aston Martin) +2.041 (77),

9. Oscar Piastri (AUS/McLaren) +2.314 (57),

10. Zhou Guanyu (CHN/Sauber) +2.527 (63),

11. Logan Sargeant (USA/Williams) +2.538 (21),

12. George Russell (GBR/Mercedes) +2.765 (122),

13. Yuki Tsunoda (JPN/Racing Bulls) +2.792 (64),

14. Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Sauber) +3.087 (68),

15. Alex Albon (THA/Williams) +3.243 (40),

16. Esteban Ocon (FRA/Alpine) +3.333 (60),

17. Kevin Magnussen (DEN/Haas) +4.348 (66),

18. Nico Hulkenberg (GER/Haas) +4.562 (82)


Saudi’s Reema Juffali announced as wild card entry for first round of 2024 F1 Academy in Jeddah

Updated 20 February 2024
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Saudi’s Reema Juffali announced as wild card entry for first round of 2024 F1 Academy in Jeddah

  • Kingdom’s first female racing driver joins all-women series’ debut in Jeddah during the Formula 1 STC Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2024

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s first female racing driver, Reema Juffali, was confirmed Tuesday as a wild card entry for the first round of the 2024 F1 Academy series at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

The series’ debut race in the Kingdom will take place during the fourth Formula 1 STC Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on the weekend of March 7 to 9.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be representing my country, especially in my hometown,” Juffali said. “The day F1 arrived in Jeddah was the clash of both my worlds and now I am actually going to be participating. I’m really looking forward to it and happy to share the experience with my friends and family who are based here.”

“As the saying goes ‘if you can’t see it, you won’t believe it.’ So, hopefully Saudi fans can see that there is a Saudi racing driver out there and it will get them to thinking that ‘this is something I can do.’ It is for this reason I have decided to take this challenge on. This is just the beginning.”

The second season of the all-women series will begin in Saudi Arabia on March 7 and finish in Abu Dhabi on Dec. 8. In addition to the hosts of the opening and closing rounds, Miami, Qatar and Singapore will all join the calendar for the first time, with Zandvoort and Barcelona returning for a second year.

Having developed an interest in cars at an early age, Juffali made history in 2018 by becoming the first female racing driver from Saudi Arabia.

Following a promising debut season in 2019, she became the first Saudi Arabian woman to compete in an international race in her home country, racing on the streets of Riyadh in the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY. This was followed by a stint in the GB3 Championship in 2021 before making her endurance racing debut at the 2022 Dubai 24 Hours where she finished second.

Juffali subsequently founded Theeba Motorsport to facilitate Saudi Arabian access to and participation in motor racing through a variety of educational opportunities and programs.

The team made its first appearance in the 2022 International GT Open and secured victory on its debut — an achievement which made Juffali the first Saudi Arabia woman to win an international motor race — before securing second place in the series’ Pro-Am class.

Last year Juffali participated in the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe where she again made history by being the first female and the first Saudi Arabian driver to secure a pole position in the Sprint Cup.

Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation and Saudi Motorsport Company, commented: “We are delighted to confirm Reema Juffali as the wild card entry for the first ever F1 Academy race to be staged in the Kingdom. As Saudi Arabia’s first professional female racing driver — who also happens to be Jeddah born and bred — I couldn’t think of anyone better to represent the Saudi people on the racetrack during the biggest sporting and entertainment weekend of the year.”

“Reema’s formidable achievements on and off track have already helped to inspire a generation of young men and women, and she stands as a symbol of all that the people of Saudi Arabia can and will accomplish,” he added. “It is therefore fitting that she is participating in the inaugural Formula 1 Academy race in her hometown. We are excited to work together with Reema and look forward to making history together in Jeddah.”

The 2024 F1 Academy season will feature seven rounds, all of which will support the FIA Formula One World Championship. The calendar has been designed to span three continents, Europe, Asia and North America, and will feature a mix of street and traditional circuits.


Acciona-Sainz XE Team quickest out of the blocks as Extreme E Season 4 starts in Saudi Arabia

Updated 17 February 2024
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Acciona-Sainz XE Team quickest out of the blocks as Extreme E Season 4 starts in Saudi Arabia

  • The first two rounds of the 2024 Desert X Prix season are in Jeddah

JEDDAH: Acciona-Sainz XE Team topped the timesheets in the free practice session of the 2024 Desert X Prix, the curtain-raiser for Extreme E Season 4 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia this weekend.

The pioneering racing series began its fourth instalment on Friday, with Rounds 1 and 2 of the championship held on Saturday and Sunday in the Saudi Arabian desert.

The ODYSSEY 21s were back in action for the first time in 2024, and it was ASXE who were quickest out of the blocks across the day’s two free practice sessions, with Rosberg X Racing and Andretti Altawkilat Extreme E in second and third respectively.

The sessions almost marked the first time Americans Travis Pastrana and Gray Leadbetter got out on the course behind the wheel of the Legacy Motor Club — in association with Jimmie Johnson — while Saudi Arabia national Dania Akeel also drove in Extreme E for the first time ahead of making her full debut for Jenson Button’s JBXE at her home event.

Johan Kristoffersson, Rosberg X Racing, said: “The modifications to the course and the competitive format mean that every decision, every second, counts more than ever. Our victory last season has set a high bar, but together with Mikaela and the whole RXR team, I feel we’re ready for another great season.”

Timmy Hansen, Andretti Altawkilat Extreme E, said: “The first race of the season is coming up and it’s always a very exciting one with everybody starting again on equal terms with zero points. The team has been in Saudi earlier than usual before the race to prepare the car to make sure it’s in perfect condition to start the new season.

“We’re very excited to start afresh and we’re determined to get on the podium, especially with the event being a ‘home race’ for our friends at Altawkilat. Exciting times ahead for us in the fourth season of Extreme E and we’re hoping it will be a big one.”

Cristina Gutierrez, NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team, said: “I’m really excited to go racing with the NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team. I can’t wait to start working with everyone and represent the team and the iconic papaya color.

“The races in Saudi Arabia in previous seasons have been very different, and this year will be too with the new track in Jeddah. I hope we can get the season off to a good start with some points.”

 
Free practice combined timings:   

1. ACCIONA | SAINZ XE Team: 10:53.933 (FP2)

2. Rosberg X Racing: 10:55.143 (FP2)

3. Andretti Altawkilat Extreme E: 10:55.543 (FP2)   

4. NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team: 11:14.760 (FP2)

5. E.ON Veloce Racing: 11:22.018 (FP2)

6. SUN Minimeal Team: 11:26.562 (FP2)

7. Legacy Motor Club: 11:41.275 (FP2)

8. JBXE: 11:58.816 (FP2)