Sunday, May 19, 2024

“Great learning experience” for M-Sport Ford in cross-country rally debut

The Ford Ranger T1+ of M-Sport and Neil Woolridge Motorsport made its long-awaited competition début in last weekend’s Baja España Aragón with Nani Roma and Gareth Woolridge as drivers. While not the smoothest outing, both trucks successfully reached the finish with Roma finishing sixth overall and Woolridge in eleventh.

Roma was running his first rally since the 2022 Dakar Rally, spending the rest of the year battling and defeating bladder cancer before joining M-Sport. After finishing eighth in the Prologue, he placed fifth and fourth in the two main stages to set a total time of 6:30:34. The five-time Aragón car victor was twelve minutes off winner Nasser Al-Attiyah.

In his first FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas start, Woolridge arrived in Spain with a cold that impacted his performance early on as he finished the Prologue in seventeenth. His performance improved over the next two legs in fifteenth and ninth, though the latter ended on a rather sour note when his Ranger suffered a tyre puncture approximately twenty-eight kilometres from the finish.

While Woolridge’s time of 6:38:29 was just seven seconds short of making the top ten, he described the race as a “great learning experience for us and happy with the result considering the conditions we faced.”

The team’s next start will be the Rallye du Maroc on 12–18 October before heading to the 2024 Dakar Rally. Roma is a two-time Dakar winner. Woolridge, whose family runs NWM, leads the South African Rally-Raid Championship and won the TGR 1000 Desert Race in June.