Ford Performance Preps the Ranger Raptor for Its Toughest Challenge Yet

The legendary Dakar Rally is the ultimate test for off-road racers

Ford Raptor driving on a dirt road.
Ford is finally bringing the Ford Ranger Raptor to the United States

Whenever Ford attaches the word “Raptor” to one of its vehicles, it’s cause for excitement. It means one of the American automaker’s rugged off-roaders is getting an extreme boost in power, capability and, subsequently, fun. This has been the case with the full-size F-150 Raptor pickup and the Bronco Raptor SUV, turning both utility vehicles into ludicrous playthings.

Next year, Ford will finally bring the Ford Ranger Raptor to the United States, and it’s arriving with a shelf full of off-road race trophies that speak to its proven capability. Ford isn’t done yet, however, as the Ranger Raptor will face its toughest challenge yet by competing in the Dakar Rally. The Rally started in the late 1970s as a challenge to drive from Paris to Dakar, first through Europe and then, after crossing the Mediterranean, resuming the journey through the Sahara desert. Over the years, the Rally has kept the “Dakar” name but moved to other areas including South America and Saudi Arabia, where the event currently takes place. In its modern guise, the Dakar rally is a two-week affair where participants will cover roughly 5,000 miles over the course of 12 treacherous stages. Vehicles range from motorbikes, quads, ATVs and, of course, sport trucks. 

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Ford racing Ranger Raptor will be based off of the previous generation global Ranger, which differs from the U.S. model in a number of small ways across the platform, suspension, interior and exterior. The racer will be fitted with a 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine, something that isn’t available for the Ranger in any market, but a 3.5 V6 can be found in the F-150 Raptor. When the semi-domesticated, mid-sized truck lands on our side of the pond, it’s expected to have a 3.0-liter V6 at its heart that will whip up 405 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque. 

Conquering the Dakar Rally will take a year’s worth of preparation and development, with Ford testing things out during Spain’s Baja España Aragón and Morocco’s Rally du Maroc rallies. Competing in an event like the Dakar Rally might not mean much to the average Ford pickup truck shopper, but fans of the Raptor lineup look at those vehicles with an admiration beyond their daily utility capabilities. “Raptor” means more ruggedness and more power, often far more than is necessary, just for the sake of it. Do you need a 700-horsepower Raptor F-150 R that can soar through the air and built not only to survive the landing, but constructed to do so repeatedly? No, but it’s sure fun as heck to do if you get a chance. 

It’s the same story with the Bronco and Ranger Raptors, just different flavors of the same recipe — and with the smaller Ranger, it makes a touch more sense. Putting vehicles to the test in motorsport is a boon to the manufacturers who get to test new technologies and show that their product holds up to their claims. For us on the consumer level, the lessons learned on the racing side make the trucks we buy better. Think of the Dakar Rally like an off-road Le Mans: a long, grueling test of driver and machine, where crossing the finish line in one piece is more than what most can accomplish. If my truck did that, or at least its close relation, I’d feel pretty secure that it could stand up to the job when it came time for my own adventures.

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