Team Ford Racing is entering the 2014 Dakar Rally with a wealth of expertise and experience from around the world. From the support of international partners during the design and development phase to the crew from 10 countries that will look after the two Ford Rangers on the 9 300 km event, it’s a truly global effort.
The purpose-built Rangers were produced by Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM), based in Pietermaritzburg, in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The outfit is headed by Neil Woolridge, a successful cross country racer in his own right with multiple championship titles to his credit and two Dakars under his belt, in 1998 and 1999. He’s also the man behind Ford’s front-running status in the South African Cross Country Championship.
NWM has been associated with Ford since 1997 and been manufacturing race vehicles for the brand since 2001. Due to the success of the team and its professional approach to cross country racing, it has been awarded the contract by Ford Motor Company globally to build the cutting-edge new FIA T1 class Ford Ranger for competition around the world.
Neil Woolridge – Team Manager, Ford Racing
Neil Woolridge heads up his own motor racing outfit, Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM), which is based in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. The team is responsible for designing, building and maintaining the Ford Ranger entries in the 2014 Dakar Rally.
NWM also runs two Ford Rangers in the South African Cross Country Championship, finishing the last two seasons second overall in this highly competitive series, with 2013 being the debut of the all-new Ford Ranger.
Woolridge boasts a long and successful motorsport career, having started out on motorcycles in 1980. He made the transition to cars in 1989, building and competing with his own home-built vehicles. This was followed by stints as a privateer and with manufacturer-backed teams in the ensuing years, including competing with Mitsubishi in the South African championship and taking on the Paris-Dakar Rally in 1998 and 1999.
He became the first South African to compete in the car category in the 1998 Dakar Rally, and he finished a credible third in the T1 class on the 1999 event.
A subsequent victory on the Roof of Africa made him one of only three people to win it on both two and four wheels.
Woolridge and his team have been associated with Ford since 1997 and have been manufacturing race vehicles for the brand since 2001 – which includes helping formulate the successful Super Production (SP) class for the South African cross country championship.
Due the success of NWM and its all-new Ranger in the South African championship, Neil Woolridge Motorsport was awarded the contract by Ford Motor Company globally to build the new FIA T1 class Ford Ranger, which is designed to compete in motorsport categories around the world, including the toughest of them all – the Dakar Rally.
Scott Abraham – Team Manager, South Racing GmbH
The international operations for the Team Ford Racing Dakar Rally project are managed by South Racing GmbH, based near Frankfurt, Germany.
South Racing is owned by Scott Abraham whose family has a long history in South African motorsport.
Abraham has been based in Europe for the past 10 years, during which time he has worked as team manager for X-Raid BMW and Overdrive Toyota. He was integral to the launch of the Toyota Dakar project and the international customer business, and thus brings with him a wealth of knowledge and experience.
South Racing is responsible for the team’s international commercial and logistics structure, including the MAN 6×6 service trucks, the T4 race truck and service equipment, as well as the team’s international members. It also handles all of the team’s logistic and administration requirements, particularly with race organiser ASO (Amaury Sport Organisation).
Francois Habib-Deloncle – Logistics Coordinator
Francois Habib-Deloncle is the team’s logistics and event specialist with 10 years of experience in setting up and coordinating major sporting events around the world.
One of his major achievements includes managing the 32nd America’s Cup that took place in Spain in 2007.
The following year he joined Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) as a logistics assistant for the first edition of the Dakar Rally in South America in 2009. Being fluent in French, English and Spanish was certainly advantageous and he became the transport and logistics manager for the 2010 and 2011 Dakar Rallies.
When ASO created a partnership with the Russian organiser of the Silk Way Rally, Habib-Deloncle became part of the consulting team that helped transform this concept into reality.
In 2012 he worked as an independent consultant on the Silk Way Rally, and with one of the teams competing in the Dakar Rally.
With his experience on the Dakar and with ASO, the Frenchman joined the Team Ford Racing squad in 2013 and coordinates the team’s logistics needs for Dakar Rally 2014.
Ian Davies – Race Engineer
Brit Ian Davies is the team’s race engineer with experience in the World Rally Championship, having worked with M-Sport – which runs Ford’s WRC program – between 1997 and 2010.
In 2010 and 2011 Davies built and looked after the Ford Fiesta driven by Ken Block in the USA Rally and Global Rallycross championships. He was also involved in the vehicle preparation for Ken Block’s popular Gymkhana 4 and Gymkhana 5 video series.
In 2013 he worked with Travis Pastrana and Bryce Menzies in the Global Rallycross championship before joining the Team Ford Racing for Dakar 2014.
He has Dakar experience too, completing his first Dakar in 2007 with X-Raid BMW, looking after former winner Jutta Kleinschmidt’s vehicle.
Michael Denton – Sports Physiotherapist
The role of the physiotherapist on a long-distance cross country race such as the Dakar Rally can’t be underestimated, and South African sports physio Michael Denton will be looking after the wellbeing of the drivers and navigators.
With 25 years in the field he has worked with the Indian cricket team, South African hockey teams, as well as the SA canoe and polo teams. He also runs a High Performance Centre at Maritzburg College in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
Denton first got involved in cross country motor racing when Lance Woolridge, who competes in the South African championship for Ford and Neil Woolridge Motorsport, fractured his spine. His relationship with the team has subsequently been cemented over the ensuing years.
Team Ford Racing Ranger (308)
Lucio Alvarez (Argentina) – Driver
Ronnie Graue (Argentina) – Co-Driver
Team Ford Racing Ranger (329)
Chris Visser (South Africa) – Driver
Japie Badenhorst (South Africa) – Co-Driver
Team Ford Racing MAN 4×4 T4 Race Truck (569)
Thomas Wallenwein (Germany) – Driver
Gabriel Moiset (Spain) – Co-Driver / Mechanic
Sean Smith-Baillie (South Africa) – Mechanic
Team Ford Racing 6×6 Assistance Truck (635)
Arne Pfizenmaier (Germany) – Driver
Gary du Plessis (South Africa) – Drivetrain Specialist
Sean Berriman (South Africa) – Mechanic
Team Ford Racing 6×6 Assistance Truck (636)
Paul Vermaak (South Africa) – Driver / Mechanic
Lance Woolridge (South Africa) – Spare Parts
Pieter Els (South Africa) – Fabricator
Neil Woolridge, Ford Racing / Neil Woolridge Motorsport (South Africa)
Scott Abraham, South Racing (South Africa)
Francois Habib-Deloncle (France)
Ian Davies (UK)
Bernd Wellmann (South Africa)
Pedro Clemente (Portugal)
Freddy Anquetil (France)
Ian Moore (Ireland)
Gareth Woolridge (South Africa)
Omar Pelloni (Argentina)
Dario Basualdo (Argentina)
Michael Denton (South Africa)
Mark Wilford (UK) – PR Manager