• Jan 17th 2011 at 5:01PM
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Ford F-150 SVT Raptor at the 2011 Dakar Rally – Click above for high-res image gallery

The Ford F-150 SVT Raptor is still proving that it can do whatever deed needs done, whenever it needs doing. Sue Mead and Darren Skilton managed to pilot a largely stock version of the desert-raiding pickup through all 12 stages of this year's Dakar rally. The team survived 16 days of some of the most brutal terrain on the South American continent and covered over 11,800 miles in the process. Their effort was enough to net the Raptor a 40th place finish over all and a first place finish in the OP class.

In fact, from what we hear, Mead and Skilton were the only contestants to even finish in the OP class, even with big names like Robbie Gordon gunning for the win.

That marks the first time that an American crew has ever managed to take a class win in the history of the Dakar Rally. The F-150 SVT Raptor that Mead and Skilton campaigned boasted the same 5.4-liter V8 that it rolled off the production line with, though a larger cooling system was fitted to handle the harsh temperatures of the course. Likewise, the pickup was equipped with a host of other race-capable bits including a new locker system for the differentials, more robust shocks, springs and tires.

Overall, Volkswagen took the top three spots in the 2011 Dakar Rally. BMW filled out the remaining spots in the top five with its entries. Hit the jump for the press release.

  • Ford F-150 SVT Raptor 2011 Dakar Rally

  • Ford F-150 SVT Raptor 2011 Dakar Rally

[Source: Ford]

January 15, 2011; Cordoba, Chile
There is a saying in the Dakar racing circles that goes like this; "To Finish is to Win!" Does it sound cliché? Maybe. But, if you've ever competed in the Dakar Rally, or any race for that matter, you know there is no checkered flag for those who don't finish. It doesn't matter how fast you went on day #1, or how many cars you passed in day #2, or how quickly your support crew repaired your car on day #3. If you wreck the car or can't complete on day #10, any hopes of a podium finish, or any finish, will elude the best intentions. Dakar is truly a game of survival of not the fastest, but the fittest. One where the attrition rate is high, and the stakes are higher. If you consider the 430 adrenalin-charged souls who began this marathon of abuse two weeks ago, checkered flags and un-corked bottles of Champaign swirling around in their heads, less than half will be starting tomorrow's stage. Those who do, who have survived and are still standing, will be heading for the checkered flag in Buenos Aires tomorrow night.

Stage 12 - San Juan to Cordoba 678 kilometers
This would be another grueling stage for the Dakar Ford Raptor team of Darren Skilton and Sue Mead. The endless desert stages of the past week gave way to boulders, river crossings and mud. Unfortunately, the T4 trucks led out of the gate this morning, lending for refrigerator-sized ruts in the track. This caused many competitors time as they navigated tricky sections or became mired in mud. Skilton was at the wheel for the day, managing to get the Raptor safely through the 500+ kilometer Special.

Rolling into the bivouac about 10:30 pm, Mead said as she peeled a sweaty helmet from her head, " Darren, as always, did a masterful job of driving today. He's a perfectionist; I don't think we could have made it to this point without that approach... It was really rough in the beginning and I believe many teams may still be out there... including the other Ford Raptor team from Chile."

Keeping the Raptor in Motion
It is a huge undertaking to prepare and race an Out-of-the-Box, OEM vehicle in the Dakar. It is even more impressive to finish. It is not by chance that the Dakar Ford Raptor and team are where they are now. For starters, they began with the best consumer-available platform, the Ford SVT F-150 Raptor. Second is the experience of Darren Skilton and his mechanic crew, Troy Johnson and Dan Moore. The logistics of prepping the vehicle, managing the crew, shipping support truck and spare parts, and sorting out details once on the ground, can only be accomplished by a someone with Skilton's background as a race team manager.

As midnight rolled around, Skilton, Troy Johnson and Dan Moore were tearing into the front end of the Raptor to address a 'clunking' noise in the steering. Maintenance on the Raptor thus far has been nominal. Last night they inspected the rear ring & pinion and ARB air locker. Two nights ago they replaced one of the General Grabber tires which acquired a bubble in the sidewall due to heat issues. Other issues have been rocks in behind the brake backing plate and repairing a rock-damaged lower control arm mount.

Airing up and down numerous times each day the team utilizes two sources for air. The first is a Powertank, scuba-style, air tank system that is powerful enough for the team to run air tools if needed. The Second is an ARB 12-volt, under-the-hood compressor. Redundancy of this type, as team technician Dan Moore stated, "is vital for success in an event like the Dakar. " Moore continued, " Aspiration and engine lubricants are often overlooked. We change or clean the air filter every day. If there is a lot of silt, they may need to do it on the track, as the silt will just choke a motor. Racing is horribly demanding on the motor. It is running at high-rpm hour after hour. If our lubricants fail, we're out of the race. In the motor, transmission and differentials we use Royal Purples oils exclusively. RP (Royal Purple) knows what racers need and we appreciate it.

Final Stage Tomorrow
Skilton and Mead cleared today's gauntlet in 40th position for the day, landing them in 36th place of all autos, Class T1 or T2. Tomorrow's stage, a total of 826 kilometers, will include a 180km Special which concludes in a short course style stadium finish. Sources say they are expecting several hundred thousand spectators in the arrival area (finish line). American Mark Miller is still holding 7th place overall, and motorcycle riders Quinn Cody and Jonah Street are holding onto 9th and 13th respectfully in their class. You can view real time Iritrack position updates at Dakar.com (vehicle 374) and follow the team at Facebook under Dakar Ford Raptor. Or, stay tuned here.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      I take it you did not see last night's Top Gear USA?
      • 4 Years Ago
      it's nice to see an american product succeeding as much as the raptor has.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I wonder how well it would have done with the 6.2L under the hood. I know it's not as proven as the 5.4L but it's still a modular based engine so I'm sure it would have held up.
      • 4 Years Ago
      So much win. USA! USA! Ford just keeps kicking so much ass lately.
      • 4 Years Ago
      It's pretty funny to hear the "incidental" rundown of brand names in the press release.

      Dakar doesn't seem to have an OP class, or any classes other than "bike", "quad", "car", "car T2", "car 2RM" and "truck" (see dakar.com).

      Dakar's results are so screwy. In one place they do indeed show this team in 40th at the end, but in their "results" section they don't even list them.

      Note, look under car, not truck. Trucks are the big things.

      40th seems pretty good, but the class win thing seems somewhat invented. I'm not sure how you defined the class in any meaningful way that excludes the 340 or 339, especially if your class includes the Robby Gordon truck too.
        • 4 Years Ago
        the open production class?
        i know, it is Ford, so you need to do your job
        • 4 Years Ago
        Of course I did...
        "the Open Class consists of vehicles that meet the weight requirements"
        • 4 Years Ago
        That's open class. I found that, perhaps you did too. However, it is not "open production".

        The open class includes SCORE trophy trucks which are not production-based. Also notably the open class doesn't have a "P" anywhere in it, so the source of the "P" in "OP" would be unexplained.


        Additionally, and of note, the open class is the class in which the overall winning car (Saleh/Al-Attiyah VW) is classed.


        So if "OP" were really the "open class" you say it is, it would be impossible for this car to have won it, as the overall car winner was in this class.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I take it back, the winning vehicle is not an open class vehicle. It's a T1.2.

        Either way, the Ford Raptor would not be an open class vehicle, it'd be a T2.1. It's possible (not sure) that no T2.1s (petrol production-series) finished ahead of 40th. It's impossible that Robby's truck and this truck are in the same class as AB says, Robby's is a T1.3.

        Still no real answers on the "OP" front.
        • 4 Years Ago
        There's no open production class in Dakar. I looked at Dakar's info.

        If there were an open production class, I don't see how the Nissan and Toyota trucks I listed (teams 340 and 339) that finished ahead of this truck wouldn't be in it.

        You could do a little looking like I did before just complaining about me as a user. You know, try to add something useful.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I typoed that, I meant to write Tacoma. The old Tacomas were still imported Hiluxes like the one in the episode.
      And I'm well aware that it's all for entertainment-the trucks were all from different decades and used so there's really no validity but it was still pretty hilarious.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Some how you got me to want a Raptor even more now!
      • 4 Years Ago
      It's quite the accomplishment for it to finish, specially since it was fairly stock. I wonder how it would have handled the race with the stardard suspension and tires. The cooling makes sense. But man that is one tough engine
        • 4 Years Ago
        Its certainly very impressive to finish that race, much less to place first in your class, and in the top 50 over all.

        As for the stock tires, they would never hold up. BFG AT's are decent for the casual offroader, but the sidewalls are way to thin for severe conditions.

        The shocks are springs were most likely tuned for offroad only, and would probably suck on the street. Ford had to give up a few things to make it something people would want to daily drive as well.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I notice the scratch section of Stage 13 has Sue Mead finishing 54th for the event for the day. The overall results have her and the Toyota driver missing suggesting very strongly they DQ,d.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Well people more mysteries: I would say the Raptor DQ'd as a result of time constraints on Stage 13. That is why you have only 53 finishers and the Raptor the Toyota did not make the cut. Now what class the Raptor was in that is even a greater mystery. I have sent emails to Motorsport.com( who have replied and with the information I have posted above), The ASO the organisation behind the Dakar and Ford(who sent an automated reply, with an idication of a proper reply in two working days).
      Any concrete information I will post here. My feeling is they were DQ'ed and we have to see if the Dakar site is updated. Thanks for your replies and interest.
      • 4 Years Ago
      That is impressive. Ford really did a nice job on that truck. Congrats to the team on their win!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Not a conspiracy theory the ASO just updated their site for the 3rd time and eventually posted a result after Motorsport..com and myself emailled them to find out what was happening.
      • 4 Years Ago
      "Largely stock" is relative. Like saying a Shelby GT500 is a largely stock Mustang.
        • 4 Years Ago
        You just gave me a thought of how sweet a Shelby tuned Raptor would be.
        • 4 Years Ago
        but stock refers to how it comes from the factory. soo, yes the GT500 is completely stock.
        • 4 Years Ago
        • 4 Years Ago
        I get it, but c'mon.Stock.
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