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Ford Raptor Takes Class With American Team in 2011 Dakar Rally

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author photo by Autotrader January 2011

In the 2011 edition of the Dakar Rally, an offroad competition covering almost 6,000 miles between Argentina and Chile, entrants Darren Skilton and Sue Mead took first place in their class – OP/2 – behind the wheel of an essentially stock Ford F-150 Raptor. This is reportedly the first time an American crew has taken a class win in this most grueling of offroad contests, which began January 1st in Buenos Aires and concluded on January 16th in Chile .

For Team USA FabSchool-General Tire, the choice of Ford’s SVT Raptor was a no-brainer. Designed to be desert-capable right from the showroom, the Raptor competed along the 5,903-mile course in essentially stock form. A locking ARB differential was added, as were King shocks and Walker Evans Racing wheels, but for the most part Skilton and Mead ‘run what they brung’. (Notably, this 2010 Raptor was equipped with Ford’s 5.4 liter powertrain. That engine has been supplanted in model year 2011 by an all-new 6.2 liter V8.) The demonstrated toughness of the Ford Raptor in what has been described as the world’s roughest off-road venue builds on the sales success of the Ford offroader. Since its launch one year ago, the Raptor has exceeded market expectations, even in a down economy and with a $40K-plus window sticker.

The Dakar Rally was first conceived as the Paris-Dakar Rally in 1977. With a route from Europe to North Africa for most of its 30+ years, the event was moved to South America in 2009 because of security concerns in North Africa. Automobiles, trucks and motorcycles all compete for an overall win, and the makeup of entrants reflects both a global industry and the continued enthusiasm for events capable of testing both personal mettle and its automotive (metal) variant.

As the Raptor required little in the way of mods, the Raptor team’s principals appeared in fairly stock trim. Darren Skilton is a veteran of numerous offroad competitions and podium finishes, and was – for a significant time – connected with Kia’s offroad efforts. Sue Mead, whose journalism career began 20+ years ago, almost immediately positioned herself as both an offroad-specific journalist and photojournalist, with behind-the-wheel time split between offroad competitions and the Land Rover-supported Camel Trophy. Ms. Mead’s years of journalism and competition have taken her to almost seventy countries, while her long – and bumpy – professional relationship with Mr. Skilton dates back over 10+ years.

In a media environment glutted with news from virtually every corner of the globe, only a handful of Americans might take note of this singular accomplishment. It is, however, a great way to celebrate a new year, and for Ford’s family of offroad enthusiasts, an even greater way to validate that enthusiasm.

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Ford Raptor Takes Class With American Team in 2011 Dakar Rally - Autotrader