Mon­day was a big day for Neil Wool­ridge Mo­tor­sport with two podi­ums in Brazil’s big­gest cross coun­try race. Seen here are Marcelo Haseyama with Lance and Neil Wool­rdige

Made-in-Mar­itzburra Rangers fastest af­ter a week of rac­ing 3 212 km cross coun­try in Brazil

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE -

THE Ford Rangers from Pi­eter­mar­itzburg’s fastest bakkie builder won first and sec­ond place at Brazil’s big­gest cross coun­try race on Mon­day.

It was the third out­ing in the Rally dos Sertões for Neil Wool­ridge Mo­tor­sport, but a first 1-2.

The NWM Ford Per­for­mance T1 FIA Ford Rangers con­quered seven days and 3 212 km of pure rough­ness, melt­ing heat and great sports­man­ship.

Over­all vic­tory was in the hands of Brazilian duo Cris­tian Baum­gart and Beco An­dreotti, with Lance Wool­ridge and Marcelo Haseyama com­ing sec­ond af­ter a thrilling fi­nal stage, where the South African-Brazilian duo started out third, nine sec­onds be­hind Mit­subishi’s Guil­herme Spinelli/Youssef Had­dad.

As the older son of for­mer South African cross coun­try cham­pion and team prin­ci­pal Neil Wool­ridge, Lance and Brazilian co-driver Haseyama had been run­ning sec­ond over­all for most of the race, but stopped on day six to help the race-lead­ing X Rally Team change a dam­aged CV boot on their Ranger.

This dropped them down to third go­ing into the fi­nal day, but they pushed their NWM Ford Per­for­mance Ranger to its max­i­mum po­ten­tial and picked up their first in­ter­na­tional stage win, cross­ing the fin­ish line with a one minute, 15 sec­onds ad­van­tage and se­cur­ing sec­ond place over­all. “I had a mis­sion in my mind the night be­fore and I knew I just had to push, and that is what I did,” an elated Lance said. “I am glad ev­ery­thing worked out, and it’s a great re­sult for me, for the NWM team and for our part­ners, the X Rally Team.

“I en­joyed the race and went for it, push­ing as hard as I could. Over­all it was a fan­tas­tic event. It was long, hot and rough, and it looked much rougher than the pre­vi­ous two years [when] I had been part of the ser­vic­ing crew. I ab­so­lutely loved it,” he de­clared.

The NWM-X Rally Team as­so­ci­a­tion en­tered three Ford Rangers in the T1 FIA Class. Af­ter stand­ing 1-2-3 over­all af­ter day three, the #303 car of Mar­cos Baum­gart and Kle­ber Cincea dropped out of the rally af­ter rolling on the fourth stage. The crew were un­hurt, but they were forced to with­draw due to the dam­age in­curred on their Ranger.

Af­ter push­ing hard on the first two stages, Cris­tian Baum­gart and Beco An­dreotti set a strat­egy of man­ag­ing their lead through the rest of the rally. On the duo’s 17th par­tic­i­pa­tion at the Sertões, their first over­all win tasted par­tic­u­larly sweet.

“Dur­ing sev­eral years we al­most got it; now we fi­nally did it. It takes an enor­mous bur­den off our shoul­ders. All the peo­ple who al­ways be­lieved in us could feel the joy and plea­sure to win this chal­lenge. This is something we built, that we fought hard to ac­com­plish.

“Un­for­tu­nately, my brother and Kle­ber could not make it to the end, but this achieve­ment is theirs as well,” Cris­tian said.

The el­dest of the Baum­gart broth­ers and Beco form one of long­est driver/co-pi­lot pair­ings in Brazilian’s cross coun­try rac­ing history. “I still can­not be­lieve it. I have never imag­ined that the mar­gin we built over the com­pe­ti­tion would put so much weight on our shoul­ders,” An­dreotti said. “We have cho­sen the right path, the right part­ner in Neil Wool­ridge Mo­tor­sport, an ex­cel­lent car and a great team.”

Ris­ing from the ashes

Neil Wool­ridge Mo­tor­sport suf­fered a set­back in July af­ter a fire en­gulfed its Pi­eter­mar­itzburg work­shop, yet rose from the ashes to prove its race-win­ning from at the 24th Rally dos Sertões. It also re­mains a lead­ing con­tender in the Donaldson Cross Coun­try Cham­pi­onship in South Africa.

“The fire caused a lot of dam­age, de­stroy­ing our two South African cham­pi­onship cars and most of our spares,” said Neil Wool­ridge, team prin­ci­pal of NWM. “Thank good­ness our three in­ter­na­tional cars weren’t there, as they had for­tu­nately left a week be­fore [the mishap].

“We had to pick our­selves up and focus on the fu­ture. If some­body told me that we would be in Brazil, win­ning over­all, I wouldn’t have be­lieved it. And here we are: out of the ashes rises the phoenix, they say. That is ex­actly what we did,” Wool­ridge stated.

He high­lighted all the hard work and part­ner­ship be­tween the two or­gan­i­sa­tions. “It has been a good rally. But all the races are good when you win! The or­gan­i­sa­tion was per­fect, the joint ef­fort be­tween NWM and X Rally Team worked ex­cep­tion­ally well.

“This race was a lot tougher than the pre­vi­ous two years where we’ve sup­ported the X Rally Team. We worked with a great team, a good bunch of peo­ple and we had a fan­tas­tic car. We did a lot of up­grades to all three cars be­fore com­ing to Brazil, and we’ve seen that it worked, which makes us all re­ally proud. Cris­tian and Beco did a fan­tas­tic job. They drove a cal­cu­lated race and didn’t take too many risks.”

Neil was equally proud of his el­dest son, who drove in an in­ter­na­tional race for the first time. “As for Lance, com­ing in sec­ond was a fan­tas­tic bonus, and win­ning his first in­ter­na­tional stage was re­ally good.

“He lost time when he had to stop and help Cris­tian and Beco on the penul­ti­mate stage, but it was the right thing to do.

“Af­ter that it seemed that sec­ond place was gone, as their 20minute gap to the third-placed time was wiped out. We re­united that night and de­cided to go all out. We fit­ted new tyres and made the car as light as pos­si­ble. I told Lance to push as hard as he could in max­i­mum at­tack, and that’s ex­actly what he did,” Neil said.

“It all worked out per­fectly. It was a great race with great peo­ple, and we will be back next year with an even bet­ter car.

“It was a pity that Mar­cos and Kle­ber fell out, be­cause I think we could eas­ily do a 1-2-3, but it is a cruel sport. It bites when you least ex­pect, and we saw that with Mar­cos, who was go­ing so well un­til just one corner took them out,” he added.

Now it is time for the NWM team to pack ev­ery­thing up and travel back to South Africa, where a huge amount of work awaits the or­gan­i­sa­tion. “We have to pre­pare for the penul­ti­mate round of the SA cham­pi­onship at Sun City, on Septem­ber 30 and Oc­to­ber 1, and we’re still in the process of re­build­ing our work­shop. But this is a great celebration for the en­tire team.”

Marcelo Haseyama and Lance Wool­ridge.

Cris­tian Baum­gart and Beco An­dreotti.

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