Ford will tackle the Production Vehicle category of this year’s South African Cross Country Series with two all-new, purpose-built FIA-Class Ranger bakkies.
The race cars, designed and manufactured by Neil Woolridge Motorsport, will be the first vehicles competing locally under the FIA’s new international cross country regulations for turbocharged petrol engines.
Power for the new FIA Rangers is derived from Ford’s 3.5-litre V6 twin-turbocharged EcoBoost engine that powers the GT Supercar, as well as the F-150 Raptor in North America.
In this application, the EcoBoost engine has been optimised to meet the strict FIA regulations for the class that allow a maximum power output of 300 kW. It produces around 600 Nm of torque in race trim – more than that of Ford’s previous five-litre V8 off road racing engine.
“We began designing the new Ranger from the ground up two years ago and started testing the prototype vehicle in the middle of 2020,” says team principle Neil Woolridge,
“We are very happy with new Ranger thus far, and have introduced various innovations for the team and cross country racing. It has been a very exciting project to work on,” he adds.
Among the extensive changes for the new Ranger are improved weight distribution and an optimised centre of gravity, which is crucial in cross country racing. A wider chassis allows for enhanced wheel placement and control, complemented by the latest technologies used in the high-performance dual BOS dampers on all four corners.
Additionally, a further departure from the modified Class T Rangers the team raced last year in the FIA category is the switch from a solid rear axle to fully independent suspension. The new Ranger has a compact SADEV six-speed sequential gearbox that is 10kg lighter than the previous version.
Other benefits of of the switch to full FIA-class specification are symmetrical driveshafts on both axles and the integration of BOS hydraulic jacks into the chassis, which makes it possible for the crew to raise and lower the vehicle at the push of a button.
Heading the Blue Oval’s charge will be Lance Woolridge (29), the 2018 and 2019 Class T champion, paired with multiple rally co-drivers’ champion Elvéne Vonk (38) for the second season in a row. A second Ranger will be in the hands of Gareth Woolridge (26) and Boyd Dreyer (27).
“With a brand-new car, and not having raced for the past six months, our priority at the first round in Dullstroom next weekend will be to give the Ranger a proper shakedown in full race conditions and complete the event.
Naturally, we will be hoping for a good result as we build up to a full-bore challenge for podium finishes, race wins and ultimately championship titles,” Woolridge says.
The works equipe will also enter a Motorsport Development Team comprising Wiseman Gumede and Fanifani Meyiwa who will compete in the Class T Production Vehicle championship in the current V8-powered Ford Ranger.
A total of five privateer Ford Ranger teams are expected to fight for class honours this year, all supported by Neil Woolridge Motorsport, ensuring that Ford and NWM remain formidable contenders for the title, and the prized Manufacturers Award at each event.