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NOV 15, 2022 | Ford Motor Company Press Release

The Next-Generation Ranger Raptor’s Road to the Baja 1000 was a Global Journey for Ford Performance

Ranger Raptor in the desert

ENSENADA, Mexico – When the Next-Generation Ford  Ranger Raptor takes to the start line of the legendary SCORE International Baja 1000 this  week (Nov. 18) it will mark the return of one of the race’s most winning nameplates. 

But getting it to the starting line has been a great example of Ford Performance’s global  efforts, using race teams and Ford engineers from both Australia and the United States to  bring the program to life. 

The Ford Ranger dominated the Baja event throughout the 1980s and ’90s, most notably in the hands of ‘King of the Desert’ Manny Esquerra who secured six multi-class Baja 1000 championships between 1981 and 1990. Ford launched the all-star Ford/BF Goodrich Rough  Riders factory team in 1991 and won the 1992 Baja 1000 outright with brothers Paul and  David Simon.  

The Ranger’s past success has been referenced in the livery design with a nod to the late  great Esquerra and the fact this truck has been sent from Australia to compete at Baja. 

The Next-Gen Ranger Raptor was designed and engineered by a global team of experts. As  Baja is considered a spiritual home of Ford Performance - even lending its name to one of  the vehicle’s drive modes – it is the perfect location for the global racing debut of Next-Gen  Ranger Raptor. The SCORE International Baja 1000 has been a grueling proving ground for  Ranger Raptor’s siblings, like the stock F-150 Raptor that won its class then drove straight  home in 2017, the Bronco R race prototype’s development and verification of the current  production Bronco in 2019-20, or even the legendary 1969 overall win with a Bronco. 

Like the 2017 class-winning F-150 Raptor, the Next-Gen Ranger Raptor has been built to  comply with SCORE’s stock category, designed to show off the capability of stock street  trucks. This means, the 3.0L twin-turbo V6, 10-speed automatic transmission, driveline and  suspension are all stock. 

“The Next-Gen Ranger Raptor is huge for us, it’s a global platform and Baja is an iconic race  and we’re really looking forward to being able to show what the Ranger Raptor can do at one  of the toughest races in the world,” said Brian Novak, off-road motorsport supervisor, Ford  Performance. “Ford has such a great history of success with so many different nameplates at Baja, and as part of a global effort, we plan to continue that success this year with the Next-Gen Ranger Raptor.” 

“The Baja 1000 is known around the world as one of the toughest off-road races on the  planet,” said Justin Capicchiano, Ford Performance and Special Vehicles Engineering  Manager, Australia. 

“It’s a difficult race to go and enter any vehicle into, let alone a production vehicle, and the  Ranger Raptor we’re racing isn’t far off what you can drive off the showroom floor. We want  to show the absolute capability of this truck in one of the most grueling off-road races so that  our customers can have total confidence in their Ranger Raptor.” 

For its return to Baja, the race-prepared Ranger Raptor will be driven by Baja veterans Brad  Lovell, Loren Healy, and Jason Hutter. Also sharing the cockpit will be the father and son  team of Andy and Danny Brown who live and breathe off-roading through their Australia based global aftermarket accessories business ARB. Overseeing the team during the race is  Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Famer Curt LeDuc.  

Ranger Raptor in the desert

Building Ranger Raptor for Baja 

Ford Performance worked with Kelly Racing in Australia to prepare the Next-Gen Ranger  Raptor for Baja. Working within the rules of SCORE’s Stock Mid-Size class, modifications to  the vehicle are kept to vehicle and crew safety items, wheels, and tyres, driving and safety  lights, underbody and vehicle protection, and a 160-litre fuel cell fitted into the tray. 

With a 10-week window to take a Next-Gen Ranger Raptor from the production line and  transform it into a race-ready truck, “the process was intense,” said Todd Kelly, team  principal, Kelly Racing. “The team at Ford Performance in Australia and the U.S. were  amazing and while the nights were long, I’m so glad I got involved in this project.”  

“I’d heard the stories about this Ranger Raptor, but it wasn’t until I got my hands on it and  drove the thing that I realised just how impressive it is. The powertrain, the chassis, the  suspension have been built to do Baja, so all we had to do was work within the rules of the  class and fit the cage, the fuel system, and safety gear,” Kelly said. 

“I was lucky enough to do a lot of the driving during the shakedown testing in the Outback  and I was completely blown away with how capable the truck is out of the box. I was finding  that I was pushing it as hard as I could across dunes and along rutted tracks and yet the  truck still felt like it had heaps left to give.”  

Ranger Raptor in the desert 

All-star off-road team to drive Ranger Raptor at Baja

Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Famer Brad Lovell, who runs one of Ford Performance’s key  off-road racing teams, Lovell Racing, was drafted to help further develop the race Ranger  Raptor in the U.S. and to be one of its pilots in the race. Lovell recently captured the 2022  Ultra4 4600 class national championship driving a Ford Bronco.

The six-time SCORE-International Baja 1000 class winner was thrilled to be selected to help  with the vehicle’s race prep, and to help select the other drivers. “I love Baja and I’m really  pumped to be working with Ford Performance on this project,” said Lovell.

“The truck was built by Kelly Racing in Australia, arrived on a plane in California and we  headed straight to Johnson Valley for testing with final prep support from our good friends at  Huseman Engineering. All the guys who drove it were impressed with it but being right-hand drive we all needed a little reprogramming for what it’s like to be driving on the other side of  the truck and not smoke the opposite side against the rocks.

“We, along with Ford Performance, assembled a great crew to help at the race, from fellow  Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Famer Curt LeDuc, who’ll be running the team from HQ, to Dan  Huseman who’s been working on the truck here in the U.S, to Loren Healy and Jason Hutter  who are both great racing drivers with plenty of off-road wins under their belts. It’s also a real  treat to be driving with the Browns.

“And it's been great working with guys from the global Ford Performance team supporting us  on the ground here in California with their know-how on both the Baja race and the Ranger  Raptor, it has been invaluable,” Lovell said. 

Partnering with the best

When it came to developing the base vehicle to help prepare the Next Gen Ranger Raptor  for Baja, Ford Performance approached companies who had an intrinsic role in developing  the road-going version.

“We worked with partners who assisted in development of the standard vehicle, as they have  that solid understanding of the vehicle’s attributes, and therefore the potential changes  needed to handle the tough conditions in Mexico,” said Andrew Philpott, Ford Performance,  commercial manager, Australia.

“Because many of our partners had extensive off-road racing experience, we not only had a  head-start on the work that needed to be done but could draw on this expertise and  guidance to expedite vehicle development.”

Involved with accessories development for Next Gen Ranger and Everest from the  beginning, ARB’s Regional Export Manager, Danny Brown, was an early collaborator on this  project. He was able to share his off-road racing experience with Ford Performance during  the planning and build of the race-ready Ranger Raptor. 

ARB Managing Director Andy Brown will also drive during the event, alongside navigator and  son Danny Brown.

“ARB is proud to partner with Ford in its quest to conquer the grueling Baja 1000 with the  Next-Gen Ranger Raptor,” said Andy Brown. “ARB has a long and storied relationship with  off-road racing dating back to the ’70s, we know first-hand the benefits the end consumer  receives from the knowledge gained when you put products in extreme environments and  test them to their limits.” 

The Ranger Raptor will be powered and protected by Shell’s low carbon biofuel blend which  consists of more than 30% sustainably sourced bio components. 

“As a global energy company, our purpose is to power progress together by providing more  and cleaner energy solutions,” said Selda Gunsel, Vice President of Fuels and Lubricants  Technology at Shell. “Providing more energy while reducing emissions is a huge challenge,  but we recognize that multiple solutions, including low-carbon biofuels, will be required to  achieve this target.” 

Ford Performance has also had tremendous support and guidance from its collaborators  throughout the project, especially the teams and experts at Herrod Performance, Kelly  Racing, Method Race Wheels, FOX, BF Goodrich, Racetech, Garret, PWR, TRW, MoTeC,  and Proloom Motorsport. 

The race-prepped Next Gen Ranger Raptor will kick off its SCORE-International Baja 1000  campaign in Ensenada, Mexico, on Nov. 18.

Ranger Raptor in the desert