Alwyn Viljoen
4 minute read
22 Apr 2022
09:00

Rally raid cars from Pietermaritzburg to the world

Alwyn Viljoen

Pietermaritzburg-based rally raid car manufacturer, Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) announced a joint venture with UK-based international motorsport engineering company M-Sport.

Pietermaritzburg-based rally raid car manufacturer, Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) announced a joint venture with UK-based international motorsport engineering company M-Sport.

Like M-Sport, NWM has a long and storied association with Ford, with both M-Sport and NWM celebrating 25 years of collaboration with the iconic blue oval in 2022.

The joint venture sees M-Sport become NWM’s European HQ and global distributor for the NWM Ford Ranger T1+ vehicle.

Woolridge told Witness Wheels the potential of the business is huge, as M-Sport provides a springboard to the world, not just the UK.

Working on a customer programme

The partnership will also see the two independent manufacturers work together to race in the Dakar Rally while developing a world-class rally raid customer programme.

The Dakar Rally has always been a long-time ambition of M-Sport and NWM and this latest partnership could pave the way for both parties to finally realise their goal and ultimately put together a competitive entry to challenge for victory.

M-Sport’s partnership with NWM allows the two marques to share their technical abilities and resources that have both been built on 25 uninterrupted years of working in direct conjunction with Ford.

While the goal of a Dakar assault is on the horizon, years of work and development lie ahead including developing the right infrastructure.

The first steps of M-Sport and NWM’s partnership is for M-Sport to begin a customer support programme from its HQ in Dovenby.

Testing a new NWM Ford Ranger T1+ 

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 the customer programme shortly afterwards.

Malcolm Wilson OBE, M-Sport managing director, said: “Myself and Matthew have recently been out to South Africa to meet Neil Woolridge and his sons and discuss their Ford Ranger T1+. 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.

“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.”

Start of a very new era 

Matthew Wilson, M-Sport director and development driver, said: “I don’t have any prior experience of driving or operating a T1+ vehicle, but the first impression was really good, which is very significant as we have got a good base to go from.

“We feel from the collaboration, we will be able to push on the vehicle’s development programme in conjunction with Neil and his team.

“Fundamentally, we are encouraged about the strong basis that the car is built around and it was great for us to get a real feel for what the car is like. It’s the start of a very new era for M-Sport, one which we are excited to learn from and see what our knowledge could bring to the development cycle.”

A landmark moment 

Neil Woolridge, Neil Woolridge Motorsport owner, said: “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.

“Our T1+ Ranger is built on the reliable and well-tested foundation of our previous generation Ranger and as such, places our new vehicle on a great starting level of performance in comparison to the competition.

“Consequently, we can use the South African Rally Raid Championship as a test bed for our vehicle directly against our competitors, which gives us the confidence to take our vehicle to the world stage.

“It was great to welcome Malcolm and Matthew to our HQ as well as offering them the opportunity to see the Ranger T1+ in action.

“Matthew raised some interesting development directions which has already underlined the significance of the expertise we are bringing onboard by partnering with M-Sport.