South Africa’s Brad Binder became the third South African world champion after a spellbinding 2016 season that saw the boykie from Potch do it all on his KTM. He joins the legends of ‘Kork’ Ballington, SA’s first world champ in 1978-1979, and privateer Jo
‘Malalane was a real eye-opener in terms of tyre wear for standard 4x4 tyres used in Class T’
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 Sun City 450 tomorrow and Saturday.
The overall title chase is done and dusted with Toyota Gazoo Racing SA pair Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie taking back-toback championships.
But the Class T championship is still wide open and having produced three different winners in the past five events, the outcome of the Sun City 450 will play a crucial role in Ford’s log standing.
“We’ve generally had good results at Sun City, and the fast pace should once again suit our vehicles,” said team principal Neil Woolridge.
“We just hope that there isn’t any rain leading up to or during the race, as the black soil turns into a swamp and makes the conditions extremely difficult.
“Malalane was a real eyeopener in terms of tyre wear for the standard 4x4 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 added.
Former champion Chris 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. Dakar fans can also see the new rear-wheel drive Toyota Hilux Evo, which Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz will test at Sun City in preparation for Dakar 2017.
Terence Marsh will also be out in the Red-Lined Nissan Navara with TopCar editor Calvin Fisher and Samsung executive Justin Hume alternating the co-driving duties.
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 30 km 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 30 km decontrol back to Sun City.
The qualifying event to determine grid positions starts at 11 am tomorrow while the main race sets off at 8 am on Saturday.
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 20minute service halt at the end of loop one with the second loop starting at 12 pm.
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.
The view Chris Visser and Ward Huxtable hopes to show the competitors in the Sun City 450 tomorrow and Saturday.