The Dakar Rally Raid is arguably motorsport's most gruelling event: an 8,500km, 14-day odyssey traversing a huge variety of highly challenging terrain on the South American continent.
Tackling the 2014 edition will be two Ford Ranger pick-ups, purpose-built for the event in a workshop in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. DEON SCHOEMAN travelled to Namibia to meet the team during the Racing Ranger's first real shakedown in the dunes.
WALVIS BAY, Namibia. At first, you only hear the noise - a harsh, guttural bellow that dips and rises as the yet unseen machine does battle with the undulating terrain. The landscape is lunar in its desolation, with a mix of pale sand and scrubland that looks forbidding.
Then, in the distance, the vehicle appears, weaving and bobbing like a prizefighter. The approach speed is astonishing, given the conditions underfoot: tricky little knee-high dunes, thick sand and a sprinkling of rocks. Hardly a highway then, but that doesn't seem to faze the driver.
As it gets closer, you recognise the blue and white Ford livery. Yes, it's a pick-up. Actually, make that a bakkie - a Ford Ranger bakkie, to be precise. Except this one is quite unlike the standard Rangers manufactured in...