Home ad­van­tage for Ford

Team Toy­ota eye an­other win in the sec­ond round of the Don­ald­son Cross Coun­try Champs

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

FORD Per­for­mance is hop­ing to claim home ad­van­tage on the up­com­ing Sug­ar­belt 450, sec­ond round of the Don­ald­son Cross Coun­try Cham­pi­onship, which takes place in KwaZulu-Natal on May 8 and 9.

The race was last run in 2013, and was won on that oc­ca­sion by Cas­trol Team Toy­ota’s An­thony Tay­lor and Den­nis Mur­phy — who’ll be aim­ing for a re­peat of that per­for­mance when they line up for Round 2 of the Don­ald­son Cross-Coun­try Cham­pi­onship.

“The Sug­ar­belt has been a main­stay of South African cross­coun­try rac­ing,” ex­plained team prin­ci­pal Glyn Hall, be­fore the start of the race.

“It is a race that is steeped in his­tory, and win­ning in KwaZu­luNatal is al­ways sweet, es­pe­cially as it is a home race for the Ford Per­for­mance team.”

The Toy­ota and Ford teams have had a ding dong battle in the sweet race, with Toy­ota com­ing out on top de­spite firm op­po­si­tion. But tak­ing on the Fords in their own backyard can be a tricky propo­si­tion.

“We’ll just have to push hard dur­ing the pro­logue,” ex­plains Tay­lor, who is cur­rently third on Round 1. “If we can get a good start for the main race, we stand a good chance of edg­ing the Fords. But it all comes down to Fri­day’s qual­i­fy­ing stage.”

The rac­ers will be based at the Beau­mont Es­ton Farm­ers Club, around 35 km from the team’s work­shop in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg where the V8-pow­ered Ford Per­for­mance Rangers are built.

This is the stomp­ing home round for Pi­eter­mar­itzburg­based driver Lance Wool­ridge and nav­i­ga­tor Ward Huxtable, who opened their 2015 sea­son with a hard-fought sec­ond­placed fin­ish on the pun­ish­ing 700 km RFS En­durance at the end of March.

In line with the re­vised three­tier struc­ture of the 2015 cham­pi­onship, the Sug­ar­belt 450 fea­tures a shorter sprint race for­mat, com­pris­ing a 100 km qual­i­fy­ing race to de­ter­mine start­ing po­si­tions fol­lowed by two loops of about 160 km each.

Ac­cord­ing to the or­gan­is­ers, the Sug­ar­belt will once again dish up a wide va­ri­ety of ter­rain, com­pris­ing sug­ar­cane fields, tim­ber plan­ta­tions and open veld sec­tions — all of which will keep the teams on their toes.

“The Sug­ar­belt has tra­di­tion­ally been a good event for us, and the team is re­ally look­ing for­ward to the race,” says Neil Wool­ridge, team manager for Neil Wool­ridge Mo­tor­sport.

“It is al­ways a tough one on both cars and driv­ers due to the tight and twisty route, but we ex­pect to do well.”

De­spite a month-long break since the RFS race, the Ford Per­for­mance crew has been work­ing flat-out to re­pair the Rangers as they in­curred ex­ten­sive dam­age from all the mud and wa­ter en­coun­tered dur­ing the treach­er­ous Har­ri­smith round.

Lance Wool­ridge and Ward Huxtable (T34) are cur­rently sec­ond in the pre­mier Class T Pro­duc­tion Ve­hi­cle cham­pi­onship af­ter a te­na­cious drive last time out, and will be look­ing to re­sume their battle with the fac­tory Toy­otas in or­der to score more valu­able points.

Chris Visser and Japie Baden­horst (T28) are hop­ing for a clear run on the Sug­ar­belt af­ter a se­ries of elec­tri­cal is­sues plagued their pre­vi­ous race where they fin­ished fifth over­all.

Qual­i­fy­ing starts at 11.30 am to­mor­row from the Beau­mont Es­ton Farm­ers’ Club.

Rac­ing starts at 8.30 am on Satur­day, with the first of the two loops that are sep­a­rated by a com­pul­sory 20-minute ser­vice.

From the start, the route heads north to cross the Stoney Ridge Road to­wards Tala Val­ley, crosses the In­go­mankulu road to Camperdown and then heads to­wards Rich­mond and Hopewell.

This sec­tion of the route is de­scribed as open veld, and even­tu­ally climbs to­wards the tim­ber plan­ta­tions at Mount De­sire.

Com­peti­tors even­tu­ally swing south to Mg­wahumbe Na­ture Re­serve, hav­ing to ne­go­ti­ate nu­mer­ous river cross­ings be­fore mak­ing their way to­wards Es­ton and Mid Illovo through a va­ri­ety of cane fields, plan­ta­tions and open veld on their way back to the fin­ish at the Beau­mont Es­ton Farm­ers’ Club. — Sup­plied.


Chirs Visser and Japie Baden­horst plan to use their home turf ground ad­van­tage to, ahem, ford the drift to take Toy­ota’s ti­tle.

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