As the 2016 Donaldson Cross Country Championship heads into the home stretch, Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) Ford Performance will be going out with focus and determination at the upcoming Sun City 450, on Friday 30 September and Saturday 1 October.
Having produced three different winners in the past five events, the highly competitive Class T remains the hottest property in the 2016 championship. Accordingly, the outcome of the Sun City 450 – the penultimate race of the 2016 season – will play a crucial role in determining who takes the title this year.
“We’ve generally had good results at Sun City, and the fast pace should once again suit our vehicles,” says team principal Neil Woolridge. “We just hope that there isn’t any rain leading up to or doing the race, as the black soil turns into a swamp and makes the conditions extremely difficult.
Malalane was a real eye-opener in terms of tyre wear for the standard 4×4 tyres being used in Class T this year, and punctures dictate the final results. “The field is extremely competitive, and there’s just no coming back from a string of punctures, so the drivers need to keep it clean throughout the race in order to remain in contention,” Woolridge adds.
Former champion Chis Visser and co-driver Ward Huxtable have tenaciously held onto second place in the championship in their NWM Ford Performance Ranger, despite competing with an older specification vehicle due to the fire that damaged the NWM workshop and the team’s race cars in July.
After encountering numerous punctures and finishing fifth at the punishing Nkomazi 450 in Malalane during August, Visser and Huxtable are 22 points behind championship leaders Jason Venter and Vince van Alleman (Toyota Hilux) with 60 points still up for grabs.
With the benefit of new dampers for their Ranger for this event, the experienced pair will be aiming for a trouble-free run through the North West province’s rugged terrain, and hoping to bag maximum points before taking on the season finale in Gauteng at the end of October.
After missing the Lichtenburg race as a result of the extensive fire damage to their Ranger, Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer returned to competitive action in Malalane. The young team produced a mature drive in their completely rebuilt Ranger and were rewarded with third place in Class T.
This impressive effort moved them up from fifth to fourth in class, 20 points adrift of Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson (Nissan Navara). It will be a case of more of the same at Sun City for Woolridge and Dreyer, balancing their obvious pace with consistency in order to notch up another solid result.
According to the organisers, a challenging and technical route awaits competitors in the Pilanesberg area.
Race headquarters and the designated service park will be located within the Sun City complex. After a ceremonial start at race headquarters, competitors travel to Tweelaagte, around 30km to the west, where the racing commences and heads north towards Molorwe.
The course then turns west towards Marapalalo and Mapapotle to the northern most point of the route. Competitors return via Mabeskraal and Tweelaagte to Bapong, with a 30km decontrol back to Sun City.
The qualifying event to determine grid positions starts at 11:00 on Friday, 30 September, while the main race sets off at 08:00 on Saturday 1 October.
Following the format used in Malalane, the main race will be run over two loops with competitors flagged away at dust gap intervals of two minutes. There will be a compulsory 20 minute service halt at the end of loop one with the second loop starting at 12:00.
Enthusiasts can follow the event live on the RallySafe app for Apple and Android devices. The app can be downloaded free of charge from the relevant app store, and enables enthusiasts to track the cars on a detailed map, download split times and access results.
Source: Ford Performance