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Ford Ranger Raptor to get high-performance expansion based on off-road racing experience - including 300kW V8 'Desert Racer'

Ford is openly considering a range of racing-inspired Rangers.

Want to race a Ford Ranger Raptor? Soon you’ll be able to with Ford Performance revealing it’s working on a range of new high-performance, competition-inspired versions of the popular ute.

Ford Performance global motorsport boss Mark Rushbrook has confirmed plans for the company to offer a more hardcore line-up of Ranger models designed for extreme off-road use or even competition.

The success of the Ranger, especially the Raptor, has cemented the model’s place in the Ford line-up alongside the larger F-150 ute and Mustang pony car as a ‘global icon’ and spurred the Blue Oval to enter a purpose-built Ranger off-road racer in the Dakar Rally in 2024 and beyond.

While the Dakar Rally entry will be built to the top-level ‘T1’ regulations for prototype-style vehicles, Rushbrook says that’s just the beginning of Ford’s plans for the Ranger as he envisions a line-up of options to rival what the Mustang offers.

“Just as you see a full line-up of Mustangs - GT3, GT4, Dark Horse R, Dark Horse S - there’s a full portfolio available in the off-road space as well,” Rushbrook said.

Ford Australia had previously hinted at the possibility of offering customers the opportunity to buy something similar to what the company raced in the Baja 1000 and Finke Desert Race, a lightly modified, production-based version of the Ranger Raptor that would be suitable for both racing or more high-speed off-road driving.

Rushbrook repeated comments he has made in the past that suggest Ford is strongly considering producing a Ranger version of the Bronco Desert Racer, which is a purpose-built off-road racing version of the SUV based on the same ‘T6’ underpinnings as the Ranger.

The Ford Performance chief first mentioned the possibility of a Ranger Desert Racer back in 2021 and confirmed it is “absolutely” still under consideration.

The Bronco Desert Racer features a 300kW 5.0-litre V8 Coyote engine, the same found in the new Mustang, as well as specialised competition-grade suspension and new 37-inch off-road tyres. 

“The same opportunity is there for Ranger,” Rushbrook said. “It’s a common platform, a lot of what we developed for Bronco DR would work for a similar Ranger.”

What’s more, Rushbrook confirmed that it’s “not an either or” decision to build either the Desert Racer or a production-class style of Ranger and both could be offered in the near-future.

While there will likely be a relatively limited market for these types of off-road racing inspired Rangers in Australia, the introduction of the current-generation model in the US market, which has a significant amount of off-road competition, will make variants like the Desert Racer and others much more viable for Ford.

In the North American market that the Bronco Desert Racer costs US$295,000 and Ford had no trouble selling out the first 50 examples it offered.

Ford Australia is believed to be investigating ways to encourage Ranger Raptor owners to exploit the full off-road potential of the car in a safe environment, so the introduction of more specific off-road racing variants would likely help that situation.

The company’s entry into the Finke Desert Race also shows a desire for the company to put its best-selling model into competition alongside racing the Mustang in the Supercars series.