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  • Ford Raptor Team USA Leads SCORE Class at Dakar Rally

    Copiapo, Chile - Stage 8 of the 2011 Dakar Rally was a great day for the FabSchool-General Tire Ford Raptor Team. The Stage, which encompassed 776 kilometers, was the forth of five extremely difficult days of the rally. Beginning in the Chilean coastal town of Antofagasta, competitors again headed towards the unforgiving interior of the Atacama Desert. The first 268kilometers, the liaison or paved section, brought them to the base of the sand dunes near Pan de Azucar. From there they began another 500+ kilometers of dunes, hard-pack and loose rock.

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    If you have been following the progress of Team Raptor USA you know that Sue Mead and Darren Skilton have been practicing disciples of the "You have to finish to win" philosophy. The duo has been maintaining a fast yet cautious pace; doing everything they can do to reduce navigation errors and the possibility of damaging the vehicle. Early frustrations of being passed by a number of cars each day have diminished as they have slowly climbed the leader board from 126th. Their strategy is paying off.

    Darren Skilton, co-driver and team manager for the Dakar Ford Raptor team, said this morning, "We lost a lot of vehicles in the past three days. It is very, very dangerous out there, especially when it gets dark. People are breaking, rolling, getting stuck. your can hear engines screaming as drivers try to push their vehicles to the limit. We had a really rough time the other night. It was about 3a.m. we'd been trying to make our way to a waypoint and ran into a dozen other teams doing the same thing. The problem was that no one could get up a really steep and really loose dune. There was no moon and we could find no way around. We ended up sleeping for a while, when we awoke it was a mess. Cars everywhere, a T4 rolled over nearby. It was just crazy."

    During the past year, in the months preparing for this type of challenge, the team considered product selection very carefully. Dakar is a very expensive race to attend. If just one aspect is compromised or overlooked, it could mean the difference between winning, not finishing, breaking and going home on a tow strap, or worse. Over the past four days in the Atacama, the team has passed dozens of cars with punctured or destroyed tires. While no tire is indestructible, and flats are often diver error, the team's General Grabber tires have been bulletproof thus far. FabSchool, while preparing the Raptor's roll cage and adding King Racing shocks, installed an ARB Air Locker in the rear axle. It has been an invaluable asset in providing 100% traction to the tires with the flip of one button on the dash.

    In the dunes, the team is regularly reducing tire pressure to 18, 13 and even 7psi. These low air pressures would not be attainable without the use of the Walker Evans beadlock racing wheels.

    Because this type of competition subjects engine and drivetrain components to some of the harshest conditions know to internal combustion engines, oil selection was not taken lightly. Team Manager and co-driver Darren Skilton chose Royal Purple lubricants for the entire truck. Chief mechanic Troy Johnson said, "Racing is brutal on engines. and your motor oil is not the place to compromise quality."

    As of the start of competition earlier today, Stage 9, a mere 270 kilometers, the Dakar Ford Raptor team was in 51st position in the automotive class.
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