4 x 4 Australia - - Driven -

THE Rap­tor pro­to­types are sub­jected to an in­cred­i­ble amount of test­ing at this fa­cil­ity. The two pro­to­types are split be­tween dy­nam­ics test­ing (sus­pen­sion, trans­mis­sion and pow­er­train cal­i­bra­tion) and desert en­durance test­ing, which we ex­pe­ri­ence on our sec­ond day. Si­mon elab­o­rates: “This week we’ve been run­ning a desert en­durance test, where we sub­ject the ve­hi­cle to 1600km at race pace in ex­treme off-road driv­ing con­di­tions. The desert en­durance gives us con­fi­dence that we have built ‘Ford Tough’ for this truck so that a cus­tomer can go out and play – and with con­fi­dence he’s not go­ing to go out and break the ve­hi­cle.”

The test driv­ers are put through Ford’s strin­gent test driver train­ing pro­gram.

“To be able to do this, we’ve got four tiers of driv­ing skill in the com­pany. Tier 1 is ba­sic – around a track at a rea­son­able speed,” Si­mon said. “Tier 2 you’ve got the de­fen­sive driv­ing skills and a bit of off

road­ing, and that’s all that man­age­ment – like me – are

al­lowed to go to. Tier 3 is where you’ve got more high speed and con­trol of ve­hi­cle in skids, which a lot of us can, but you do it at a level that you can only main­tain if you keep up the driv­ing every week.

“Tier 4 is an­other level above that again. Now these guys, then, to be able to do what they need to do, have to go on an off-road han­dling course that is an­other level above Tier 4. So yeah, the five guys that are driv­ing around at the minute are the only ones in Aus­tralia that are al­lowed to do the high speeds.”

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