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’

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - — Wheels Re­porter.

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.

PHOTO: MO­TOGP

PHOTO: QUICKPIC

The view Chris Visser and Ward Huxtable hopes to show the com­peti­tors in the Sun City 450 to­mor­row and Satur­day.

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