Ford Builds New Off-Road Racing Team With Bronco

Motorsport / Comments

The company has filed for a trademark on "Bronco Rough Riders". We can't wait.

Back in 1969, off-road racing legend Rod Hall won the grueling Baja 1000 desert race outright in a modified Ford Bronco built by Bill Stroppe. Last year, on the fiftieth anniversary of that win, Ford hoped to relive its past glory with the new Bronco R - a purpose-built racing prototype that, while not strictly based on the production Bronco that debuted earlier this year, made use of plenty of its parts. That included the powertrain, from the turbocharged EcoBoost engine right down to the ten-speed automatic transmission, transfer case, and front differential.

The 2019 Bronco R's try at a Baja win was, unfortunately, an unrelenting catastrophe, the SUV sustaining heavy damage and multiple parts failures due more to bad fortune than anything. But now, Ford will have a chance to do things over.

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Ford has just filed to trademark the name "Bronco Rough Riders" in the US, covering "entertainment services in the nature of automobile racing," suggesting that Ford is ready to have another go at off-road races like the Baja 1000 and, if Ford is feeling so bold, the world-famous Dakar Rally.

The racing program appears to fit well with Ford's overall strategy at the moment, which in the US includes a pivot away from car segments and toward trucks, crossovers, and SUVs like the 2021 Ford Bronco - the hotter, more profitable parts of Ford's business. It also makes sense as a replacement for Ford's terminated GT racing programs in IMSA and FIA sports car racing, which produced a Le Mans win in 2016 and an IMSA manufacturer's title two years later, but seems significantly less relevant now that Ford has axed most of its car product lines in the US.

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The "Bronco Rough Riders" moniker is in the same styling as the Ford Rough Riders - an off-road racing group in the early 1990s that consisted of numerous teams driving in several classes, with Ford factory support. The effort produced more than 20 driver and manufacturer championship titles over five years, and gave Ford a chance to develop and refine new chassis and powertrain components.

There is, of course, no guarantee that the new trademark will actually be put to use, but seeing as Ford's motorsport engineers probably have an awful lot of free time these days, we suspect the Bronco Rough Riders will become a reality.

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