Team Ford Racing is entering the 2014 Dakar Rally with a wealth of expertise and experience from around the world as its two Ranger bakkies take on the gruelling 9300km event in January.The purpose-built FIA T1 class Rangers were produced by Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM), based in Pietermaritzburg, in KwaZulu-Natal. The outfit is headed by Neil Woolridge, a veteran with two Dakars under his belt (1998 and 1999). TOUGHEST RACE IN THE WORLDThroughout the project the team has had input from Ford’s high-performance Special Vehicles Team (SVT) division in Detroit, as well as chassis, suspension and engine management specialists in Europe.Woolridge said: “We selected the very best partners, suppliers and crew for Team Ford Racing’s debut on the Dakar Rally, as we know that we have a very competitive vehicle, and we’re aiming to prove its performance on what is renowned as the toughest race in the world.” Aside from the South African pair of Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst who will be competing in their first Dakar, the NWM team is heading to South America with a crew of 10 people from its own operation, including Woolridge and sons Lance and Gareth.Lance is responsible for the Dakar Ranger’s spare parts and scored the new Ranger’s first victory during its debut outing in the 2013 South African Cross Country Championship.Race engineer Bernd Wellmann has been with NWM for eight years, and was responsible for most of the technical design of the new T1 Ranger. He also handles the diagnostics for the vehicle.The crew also includes chassis engineer and assistance truck driver Paul Vermaak, and drivetrain specialist Gary du Plessis. The international operations for the Ford’s 2014 Dakar project are managed by South Racing, owned by South African Scott Abraham. Abraham said: “There’s a good balance in the team between those with many years of Dakar and WRC experience, the guys that may not have been on the Dakar but are accomplished race mechanics and the youngsters that are just starting their careers in this competitive field and will learn a lot from this international exposure.“Our objective was to secure the best people for the job, who are happy to work in what are often difficult and less than ideal conditions but are committed to the team’s success. Attention to detail and the quest for perfection is crucial, as is the ability to work together as one team.”DAKAR VETERANS Lucio Alvarez and co-driver Ronnie Graue will lead Ford’s 2014 Dakar Rally charge, supported by mechanics, Dario Basualdo and Omar Pelloni. Pedro Clemente is the car chief for the Alvarez/Graue Ranger, having moved over to the Ford team after several years with Overdrive Toyota. Freddy Anquetil is the car chief for the Visser/Badenhorst Ranger.