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RANGER RAPTOR BEATS BAJA Ford Validates Its Ranger Platform In The Rugged Baja Desert By Dan Sanchez Photos by Get Some Photo The Ford Motor Company continues to test and fine-tune its late-model powertrain and chassis in the most brutal off-road race in the world, the SCORE Baja 1000. In past races, the Ford F-150 Raptor and the Ford Bronco were tested in this race, but at the 55th BFGoodrich Tires SCORE Baja 1000 Presented by 4 Wheel Parts, the Ford Ranger Raptor was brought out for the same type of testing. “This is the Baja 1000, one of the toughest off-road races in the world,” said Mark Rushbrook, Global Director, Ford Performance Motorsports. “It’s a key proving ground for Ford Performance and our vehicles to earn the badge of Raptor. This effort has been a global effort for Ford Performance from the beginning, with Ford Australia having done the design and initial development signoff, then shipping it to the States and working with all of our partners to pool all available resources for this common goal. It takes a great truck and it takes great people. We’ve proved that we have both of those on a global level.” When the announcement came that the Ranger Raptor would be racing in the SCORE Baja 1000, many wondered why the vehicle came from Australia. The reason is that the Raptor Ranger is an Australian-built, right-hand drive vehicle with a 3.0L, twin-turbo V6 that puts out 400 horsepower and 430 lbs. ft. torque. It also uses Ford’s production 10-speed automatic transmission with factory internal parts and calibrations. According to Brian Novak, Ford Off-Road Motorsport Supervisor, the Ford Bronco and the Ranger Raptor are built on the same platform. Both were developed in Australia. “A lot of the development carries the same influences, but the Bronco has diverged a little bit with its own technology such as shock design,” adds Brad Lovell, veteran off-road racer and vehicle designer who works with Ford Performance to develop vehicles such as the Ford F-150 Raptor, Ford Bronco, and now the Ranger Raptor. “Technically there are lots of similarities but the Ranger Raptor’s interior and integration of controls are vastly different between the two.” Before the race, the Raptor Ranger was brought to Lovell for final preparations. “When we got the vehicle here we worked with Dan Huseman of Huseman Engineering, a SCORE Trophy Truck builder,” said Lovell. We added some robustness to the skid plates and gave the truck the ability to drive through Baja as our experience knew what it needed. These were minor things to tweak, but it came fully prepped and ready to go. What is astounding to me is that we really never had any major failure through testing and racing.” Coming to Ensenada, Mexico for the race also carries a lot of logistics for a race team, engineering team, marketing team, and others. Ford Performance looked to ORMHOF inductee and legendary off-road racer Curt LeDuc to help them through all of the processes. “I cannot believe how stock this vehicle is and that it conquered Baja,” said LeDuc. “I’m proud of the team which includes Brad and Byam Lovell, Jason Hunter, Paul Blangstead, Loren Healy, Eric Davis, and ARB’s Andy and Danny Brown.” “The whole point of bringing the Raptor Ranger down to race the SCORE Baja 1000 was to validate the vehicle,” said Lovell. “It’s very important for Ford to come here and have a vehicle that could finish the race. To me, it’s like the Raptor Ranger earned its stripes.” The Green Flag Drops The Raptor Ranger was in the SCORE Stock Mid class with Lovell as the driver of record. During the race, it was passed on to several drivers, each with their own driving style. “We had a relay of four different teams and were told not to screw it up,” Lovell said with a laugh. “For each of the driving teams, they had to measure their level of risk and avoided making mistakes that would prevent the truck from finishing. For the scale of it, and the amount of suspension the Raptor Ranger has, it never felt like it was bottoming out.” The Raptor Ranger was outfitted with Fox Live Valve Technology shocks and 315/70R15 BFGoodrich KO2 tires mounted on Method Race Wheels. “The suspension tuning is very good and when it hits the rough parts of the course, it ramps up the suspension and handles well,” said Lovell. “By comparison, the Ford Ranger Raptor has less overall suspension travel than the Ford Bronco, but it’s much more nimble and controllable. It’s actually a pleasure to drive.” Well into the race, the only issue the Ranger Raptor had was a light bar mount breaking. According to the team, they pulled into the BFG Pits to have it repaired. As the team pushed forward, they noted that the course was vastly different, calling it a “torn-up war zone” as they drove into the night. “It was a battle,” said Loren Healy. “That first section we had to run was so tough, technical, and slow. There were dead vehicles everywhere out there, but we picked our way through, stayed patient, and got to the beach where we could pick up the pace.” As the team approached the Summit, they encountered large boulders and rock crawling but the Ranger Raptor pushed through to eventually cross the finish line in 26:21:39. After celebrating in Ensenada, members of the team drove the Raptor Ranger back across the Mexico/U.S. Border and back to Lovell Motorsports. In addition to validating the vehicle’s drivetrain and suspension, it also demonstrated that low-carbon fuels can be an alternative in racing. “The Shell low-carbon fuel consists of more than 30 percent sustainably sourced bio components,” said Selda Gunsel, VP of Fuels and Lubricants Technology at Shell. “The engine performed without any issues using the low-carbon fuel from Shell,” added Lovell. “The intent was to show it as an alternative until EVs can improve and survive in off-road racing conditions. So it was also a great win for Shell and their efforts.” While the Raptor Ranger is not yet available in the U.S. Ford truck enthusiasts and SCORE fans are hopeful it will have some of the same components that have been “Baja proven” during the SCORE Baja 1000. While it’s still uncertain as to what components a U.S. version of the truck will contain, we are certain that it will no doubt have the same racing DNA as the F-150 Raptor and Bronco, to be just as exciting of a vehicle to own and drive. SJ Video: Curt LeDuc Post Race Interview

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