Mar­itzburg’s Chris Visser and co-driver Ward Huxtable hope to con­tinue their strong mo­men­tum from the Sun City 450 at the Atlas Copco this week­end.

Visser/Huxtable will be go­ing all out for Don­ald­son Cross Coun­try Class T ti­tle

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - COLIN MILEMAN

THE 2016 Don­ald­son Cross Coun­try Championship is set for a thrilling show­down at the fi­nal race of the sea­son, with the Class T ti­tle to be set­tled at the Atlas Copco Gold 450 in Gaut­eng to­mor­row and on Satur­day.

The Neil Wool­ridge Mo­tor­sport (NWM) Ford Per­for­mance team of Chris Visser and co-driver Ward Huxtable are tied for the championship lead along with ri­vals Ja­son Venter and Vince van Alle­man (Toy­ota), so it’s all to play for when the crews set off to­mor­row for the qual­i­fy­ing loop.

“It’s been a crazy year with lots of ups and downs, but we’re thrilled to be go­ing into the fi­nal race equal on points and fight­ing for the championship,” said team prin­ci­pal Neil Wool­ridge. “Our vic­tory at the Sun City 450 was just what we needed, and is re­ally good for the championship. It has given the team a huge boost go­ing into the last race of the year.

“We’ve done our home­work and prepa­ra­tion on the cars, and we hope to con­tinue our strong mo­men­tum through to the end,” Wool­ridge said.

De­spite its rough and rocky route, the Atlas Copco Gold 450, lo­cated in the gold min­ing belt of Gaut­eng’s West Rand, has tra­di­tion­ally been a good hunt­ing ground for the NWM Ford Per­for­mance team. They won the event in 2014, with Visser fin­ish­ing sec­ond over­all last year.

Team-mates Gareth Wool­ridge and Boyd Dreyer will be keen to re­peat their im­pres­sive per­for­mance dur­ing the 2015 event, which saw them run­ning as high as sec­ond over­all at one stage, and even­tu­ally end­ing fourth due to a punc­ture late in the race.

De­spite miss­ing round four of the 2016 sea­son due to the dev­as­tat­ing fire at the NWM work­shop in July, the young pair are cur­rently fourth in the Class T championship, 15 points adrift of Jo­han van Staden/Mike Lawrenson (Nis­san).

Buoyed by their sec­ond-place fin­ish at Sun City, they have their sights set on wrap­ping up the sea­son with an­other podium and, hope­fully, se­cur­ing a topthree fin­ish in the championship stand­ings.

With the 2016 sea­son dic­tat­ing a switch to stan­dard 4x4 tyres in Class T, punc­tures will once again play a crit­i­cal role in de­ter­min­ing the out­come of this race and, in­deed, the championship — as they have done through­out the year.

“The weather could be a fac­tor too,” Wool­ridge said.

“At the mo­ment, it’s very hot and dry as a re­sult of the drought, which will make the route ex­tremely dusty and very dif­fi­cult to pass slower cars. But if it rains, the mud could cause a bit of havoc for every­one.”

The Atlas Copco Gold 450 is based at the Kloof Coun­try Club in Glen­harvie, less than 60 km from the Jo­han­nes­burg city cen­tre, thus mak­ing it eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble for spec­ta­tors and fans.

Qual­i­fy­ing com­mences at 11.30 am to­mor­row, with the main race start­ing at 8.30 am on Satur­day. Com­peti­tors set off with a dust gap of two min­utes be­tween each ve­hi­cle, and com­plete the first loop be­fore re­turn­ing for the manda­tory 20-minute ser­vice in­ter­val.

The en­tire field is re­grouped be­fore com­menc­ing the sec­ond loop, which is a great op­por­tu­nity to see the cars closeup, and to meet the driv­ers and co-driv­ers.

Fans who aren’t able to at­tend the race can fol­low the ac­tion 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: QUICKPIC

Neil Wool­ridge Mo­tor­sport (NWM) Ford Per­for­mance team of Chris Visser and co-driver Ward Huxtable hope to con­tinue their strong mo­men­tum from the Sun City 450 at the Atlas Copco this week­end.

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