While we’re still shaking off a restful break from the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, Sue Mead, Darren Skilton and the team supporting the FabSchool/General Tire Ford F-150 SVT Raptor are racing in the 2011 Dakar Rally in South America.
The Dakar Rally (formerly the Paris Dakar Rally) is the most grueling motorsports event in the world. Since 2009, it’s been run through the deserts and mountains of Chile and Argentina.
This year’s Dakar kicked off Saturday in Argentina, with an on-road rally from Buenos Aires to Victoria, before starting Stage 1 on Sunday in the first off-road leg from Victoria to Cordoba. The entire race, which runs through Jan. 16, is a 9,500-kilometer (5,903 miles) circuit from Buenos Aires to the Atacama Desert in Chile.
Mead, a freelance writer for PickupTrucks.com, is well versed and experienced in off-road racing and has participated in the Dakar race once before as a co-driver. In 2000, she took part in the race when it was held in Africa, along with veteran off-road racers Darren Skilton and Troy Johnson racing for Kia. If you recall, that race was stopped by a terrorist threat, and many of the racers, including Mead’s team, were evacuated. Mead was also a support driver for Volkswagen in the 2009 Dakar Rally.
Mead and Skilton since well before the green flag dropped at this year's Dakar Rally. They had to custom-fabricate hardware and line up sponsors in less than six months to get the F-150 ready for South America.
The FabSchool/General Tire Raptor (Truck No. 374) is outfitted with an ARB locker, King Shocks at each corner and wheels from Walker Evans Racing. Inside, there are Cobra seats with Crow harnesses. Under the hood, the 5.4-liter V-8 Raptor is mostly in factory form except for a pair of Odyssey batteries and Royal Purple Racing oil.
Mead and Skilton aren’t the only Raptor competing in this year’s Dakar. Javier Campillay and Pablo Rodríguez from the Tamarugal XC Rally Team (Truck No. 375) are racing in a Raptor for the second year after gaining notoriety for their effort in the 2010 Dakar Rally. Both teams will be collaborating to make sure the two Raptors cross under the checkered flag in 15 days.
So far, the FabSchool team is in 126th place, but the tough stuff is just getting started. Stay tuned for more updates in the coming weeks or follow along at the official Dakar website or on Facebook.