New FIA Ford Ranger boasts twin-turbo V6 power
The Ford Castrol Cross Country Team will debut its brand new FIA-class Ford Ranger in the South African Cross Country Series (SACCS) later this year.
Designed and built by Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) in Pietermaritzburg, it is the first vehicle of its kind in the world to compete under the FIA’s (Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile) new regulations adopted early this year for turbocharged petrol engines.
As such it comes bolted to the same 3.5-litre twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 engine that powered the Ford GT supercar to victory at the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans sports car endurance race. In this application, however, it relies on a fully programmable MOTEC electronic engine management system, along with twin air filters with dual intercoolers. Ford claims that this unit is good for a claimed 300kW and 700Nm worth of torque.
Mounted well behind the front axle for optimal weight distribution, this motor comes mated to a new SADEV SC924 Evo six-speed sequential gearbox. Compared to the existing transmission, it is 10kg lighter, much more compact and uses a lot less oil. Based on the gearbox used by many teams in the World Rally Championship (WRC), it is also designed to be easier and faster to change during a service stop - if required.
“Designing and developing an all-new vehicle from the ground up enables us to use the latest technologies and components, while incorporating the valuable experience we gained in the production and constant evolution of the 25 current-generation Ford Ranger V8s we have built over the past seven years,” said Neil Woolridge, NWM team principal.
“These Rangers not only won back-to-back SACCS Class T titles in 2018 and 2019, but competed successfully all around the world, including winning an unprecedented four consecutive titles at the Rally dos Sertões in Brazil.”
High-strength yet lightweight chromoly tubing is the material of choice for the chassis and integrated roll cage, all of which is manufactured in-house by NWM on a specialised chassis jig.
The body panels are made of carbon fibre for reduced weight and optimal strength. A unique "gullwing" design has been adopted for the doors, which give the driver and co-driver access to a larger and more spacious cabin, which is also carbon fibre reinforced.
Behind the crew, where the rear seats would be found in a normal Ranger double cab, is a specially designed 480-litre fuel cell produced by Aero Tec Laboratories in the UK – the same company that has supplied all Formula One teams for the past 25 years. Although the tank won’t be filled to capacity on domestic races, it is designed to carry enough fuel for long-distance endurance stages that are typical of events like the Dakar Rally.
AC is provided for the crew, which helps limit fatigue as cabin temperatures can soar well above 50-degrees Celsius when racing in hot climates. A heated windscreen is also fitted to eliminate misting up in colder temperatures, or when driving through water crossings.
The new FIA-class Ranger rides on fully adjustable BOS Suspension dampers and springs, which at this stage are exclusively available to NWM. With two units mounted on each corner, this setup provides an impressive 280mm of travel to soak up the harshest terrain.
Along with the advanced suspension components, BOS also supplies the hydraulic jack system that is only permitted in the premier FIA category. It allows the team to raise or lower the Ranger at the push of a button instead of using manual high-lift jacks – a major time-saver when replacing a wheel or performing critical repairs during the heat of a race. Three spare wheels can be carried: two beneath the cabin and one above the rear axle.
Retardation comes courtesy a high-perfomance Brembo brake system that features six-piston calipers all round, as well as water cooling to effectively dissipate heat build-up.
The new racing Ranger is still in the process of being built at the NWM team’s workshop in Pietermaritzburg – although assembly is currently on hold due to the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown. Likewise, several races have been cancelled or postponed and the SACCS is working on a revised calendar for the remainder of this year’s championship in line with government health regulations.
“Our team has spent more than eight intense months designing every aspect of the new vehicle, which is an exceptional achievement to produce a clean-sheet design,” added Woolridge.
“We’re excited to see the first vehicle coming to life - and can’t wait to finish it and start testing.”