Top spot: Ford and BMW fight it out:
Team Ford Racing left the 4×4 Mega World 400 at Carnival City victorious, with Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst dominating proceedings to take their second win of the season.
The Ford Racing Ranger crew came in two minutes and 39 seconds ahead of veterans Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege, in the RFS BMW X3. It was a timely win that kept Visser/Badenhorst in the championship frame with unofficial scoring now putting the pair 24, 5 points behind championship leaders Duncan Vos and Rob Howie, in the Team Castrol Toyota Hilux, with two races left.
Third and fourth change the championship game
Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable in the sister SP Ford Ranger rose to the occasion, securing a third place finish for the sixth round of the Absa Off Road Championship.
Visser and Badenhorst came in to the finish line two minutes and 39 seconds ahead of their nearest rivals, after securing pole position in Friday’s prologue session and leading from start to finish. After an early scare when they dumped the Castrol Toyota Hilux on its side, Vos and Howie recovered to finish fourth.
Just a good day to be in a Ford
It was the second time this season the two Ford Racing crews finished on the podium.
“Timing couldn’t be more perfect,” commented Visser after the race. “We’ve had a difficult run of late but with two races left we are now suddenly back in the hunt. We’ve always felt we had the pace but small niggles have held us back. If we can have a clean run in the coming races the title is very much a possibility.”
With dry and dusty conditions prevailing over the weekend, the pair’s dominance of Friday’s prologue session went a long way to ensuring a successful outing in Saturday’s race.
“It really hit home for us that the prologue is 50% of the race. We went out with the intention of securing a strong starting position and that really set us up for the entire race. We pushed hard right from the beginning of the main race although we were hampered by a damaged rear anti-roll bar, which broke 10km from the start. We were able to build up a nice lead and control the race from the front. It was a fantastic feeling and I’d like to dedicate this win to my mother who is celebrating her birthday,” added Visser.
There was a further bonus for Ford when they took the manufacturers award. The two Ford Racing factory teams combined with privateers Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greyling in the Ruwacon Racing Ford Ranger to edge out Toyota.
“To win the manufacturer’s award as well was the cherry on top.” adds Team Manager Neil Woolridge. “It was an especially proud moment as we had a number of Ford staff, sponsors and media joining us for this event and they were able to celebrate the day’s results with us.”
The rest of the pack
After two non finishes in a row Gary Bertholdt, with Ralph Pitchford alongside him in the Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux, bounced back to finish sixth. They were just over a minute ahead of Ruwacon crew de Bruin and Greyling, with South African champions Jannie Visser and Joks le Roux next up in the International Truck Toyota Hilux.
A solid ninth place represented a good result for Terence Marsh and George Smalberger who were out for the first time in the V8 powered Regent Racing Nissan Navara. The SA Warranties Nissan Navara, crewed by experienced Archie Rutherford and former Springbok rugby player Stefan Terblanche, completed the top 10 with the pair recovering well from a disappointing prologue result.
An ultra fast route took its toll on some fancied crews. Sun City 400 winners Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren (RFS BMW X3) retired after an early roll while Anthony Taylor and Chris Birkin, in the second Team Castrol Toyota Hilux, went out with suspension damage after hitting a ditch. The incident dropped Taylor/Birkin to third in the championship behind Visser and Badenhorst and was a major blow for du Plooy and Janse van Vuuren.