Dubai Film uses a custom-built Raptor to capture riders in action.



Sonja Trimani, founder of Dubai’s ALMAS, passes a competitor in the team’s Raptor.



Riders race across the sand during an endurance trial in the Arabian desert.



Sonja Trimani coaches an ALMAS rider from the seat of the Raptor.



ALMAS riders give food and water to a horse in front of the Raptor, which carries supplies.

Sand Blasters

F-150 Raptors play a vital role in Dubai’s intense horse-racing scene

By Kristin Baird Rattini

The United Arab Emirates’ top endurance racing teams run on horsepower. We’re not just talking about the beautiful Arabian horses that can carry riders over 25 to 100 miles of harsh desert terrain in a single race. A team’s success and survival often depend on the powerful support vehicles that accompany it. So it’s not surprising to find numerous F-150 Raptors on the course at most endurance competitions, which run every weekend from October through March.

“There are probably 15 Raptors out there each race,” says Sonja Trimani, founder of Dubai’s ALMAS all-woman endurance horse-racing team, which uses a 2012 Ford F-150 Raptor to accompany the team on two dozen competitions each season. “It’s extremely important to have a reliable vehicle that can keep pace with the horses.

“Endurance racing is like a marathon on a horse,” Trimani explains, noting that some races last up to 12 hours in peak temperatures upwards of 118 degrees. The Raptors serve as mobile rehydration stations for ALMAS and other teams; they’re lifelines for the horses. Every kilometer, team members in the truck beds pass 1.5-liter bottles of water to the riders, who pour them over their horses to cool them down. “If the horse can’t be cooled down, it cannot run at full speed,” says Trimani. “The races move very fast, especially if you want to place in the top 10. With our F-150 Raptor, we can keep up our speed and secure a good position.”

That’s because the F-150 Raptor was practically designed for the desert. Its wide body offers impressive stability that’s perfect for off-road driving and plowing through rolling sand dunes—in other words, ideal for harsh and varied terrain, from the American Southwest to the Arabian Peninsula. Dubai Film even uses a custom-built F-150 Raptor to carry its Ultimate Arm camera crane when broadcasting the races (seen at a men’s endurance race in January 2016).

As a top destination for endurance racing and training, the UAE will be hosting the World Endurance Championship in December 2016, and undoubtedly the newest form of the truck, the powerful and 500-pounds-lighter 2017 F-150 Raptor, which comes out this fall, will be there. “If the car in front of you gets stuck and you have to shift to low speed, the Raptor still has the power it needs to cut through the sand,” Trimani says, then smiles. “We’ve never gotten stuck.”

Photographs: Nadine Al Koudsi (opener), Saskia Marloh
Tags: F-150

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