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Ford signs Carlos Sainz Sr to lead Dakar Rally programme in 2025

Ford has signed four-time Dakar Rally winner Carlos Sainz Sr to lead its cross-country rally programme from 2025.

#204 Team Audi Sport Audi RS Q e-tron E2: Carlos Sainz Sr.

Photo by: A.S.O.

Sainz and double event winner Nani Roma will be two of the four drivers to represent Ford in the prestigious Dakar event in Saudi Arabia next year, with its remaining line-up to be announced at a later date.

This would mark the Spanish driver’s fourth stint with the American auto giant, having periodically competed with its range of cars in a World Rally Championship career that lasted almost 20 years.

It was at the wheel of a Ford Sierra RS that he made his WRC debut back in 1987, before joining the factory team for a handful of events next season.

He returned to Ford as a two-time WRC champion in 1996, scoring three victories over the following two seasons before heading back to Toyota.

Toyota’s withdrawal at the end of 1999 paved the way for a third stint between 2000-02, which yielded another two wins and a best finish of third in the championship.

Sainz has been hired by Ford after he steered Audi to its first victory in Dakar in January, the culmination of a three-year factory programme that was cut short due to what has been described as a lack of spare parts.

With Ford, Sainz will be targeting a fifth Dakar win with as many manufacturers, having scored his previous four triumphs with Volkswagen, Peugeot, Mini and Audi.

“I’m very excited by this new Dakar Rally project, to go back to working with Ford for the fourth time, and to return to M-Sport, to return to Malcom (Wilson, M-Sport managing director) who I know very well, it’s really great to be back,” he said. 

“My history with Ford goes all the way back to ‘87, and I think I was Malcolm’s [Wilson, founder of M-Sport] first driver, his first ever factory driver, back in the day, and I’m very proud of that. I’m really excited to be driving the Raptor truck, and to approach this big challenge with a lot of goals. One is to help Ford win the Dakar Rally.”

The American auto giant made the announcement on Friday afternoon, where it also revealed that it has begun active testing with the 2025 Ranger Raptor.

It had already planned to build an all-new Dakar challenger for 2025 after making an explanatory outing in this year’s Dakar with a revised version of the NWM-built Ranger, piloted by Roma and South Africa’s Gareth Woolridge.

Ford dropped a teaser of the new Raptor along with the announcement, showing the rear of the vehicle kicking up dust in a desert.

“The scale of our ambitions in off-road racing are unparalleled in Ford’s recent history and nothing is more clear in that ambition than our challenge to take the Ford Raptor to the legendary Dakar rally,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance Motorsport. 

“Taking on such an enormous challenge requires the best engineers, designers, team members, navigators and drivers, and in Nani Roma and Carlos Sainz Sr, we have two of the most experienced and successful drivers in Dakar history. The Ford Raptor is already showing promising signs in testing and having two of the best drivers in the world with us for the ride gives us confidence for the continued development of the truck."

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