Chance to score dou­ble points

Made-in-Mar­itzburg Rangers on a podium hunt in Botswana

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - COLIN MILEMAN

THE Ford Neil Wool­ridge Mo­tor­sport (NWM) Puma Lubri­cants team have one ob­jec­tive in mind for the up­com­ing Toy­ota Kala­hari Botswana 1 000 Desert Race, and that is to score max­i­mum points to build on their cur­rent lead of the Class T cham­pi­onship.

As the third round of the South African Cross Coun­try Se­ries and the only 1 000 km marathon event on the cal­en­dar, the Desert Race is renowned as Botswana’s big­gest an­nual sport­ing and so­cial event. Cru­cially for the teams, it’s the prime op­por­tu­nity to stamp their author­ity on the ti­tle chase dur­ing the unique and chal­leng­ing three-day event.

“The Botswana Desert Race is al­ways a crit­i­cal point in the cham­pi­onship, as it gives us the chance to score dou­ble points,” said Neil Wool­ridge, team prin­ci­pal of NWM. “Re­sults from this race typ­i­cally de­ter­mine who will take the ti­tle at the end of the year. We are con­fi­dent go­ing into this year’s Desert Race, as the cur­rent Class T Ford Ranger is the best we’ve ever built.”

Gareth Wool­ridge has the en­vi­able po­si­tion of go­ing into the Botswana event lead­ing the Class T cham­pi­onship on 46 points af­ter fin­ish­ing sec­ond twice in a row this year, and they’re still aim­ing for that elu­sive first vic­tory in this fiercely com­pet­i­tive se­ries. How­ever, it’s a close-run af­fair, with the Toy­ota Hilux crew of Jo­han and Werner Horn a sin­gle point adrift in the stand­ings.

Lance Wool­ridge and Ward Huxtable are cur­rently third in Class T with 40 points in the sec­ond Ford NWM Puma Lubri­cants Ranger af­ter win­ning last time out.

“They are hop­ing to make amends for the frus­trat­ing out­ing at the sea­son-open­ing Licht­en­burg 400, and a top re­sult will be es­sen­tial lead­ing into the sec­ond half of the cham­pi­onship. With Gareth cur­rently lead­ing the cham­pi­onship and Lance third in class, we’ve proved that we have the pace and the en­durance to win, and that is ex­actly what we’re aim­ing for in Botswana,” Neil Wool­ridge said.

Al­though there was lit­tle to do on Lance and Gareth’s cars af­ter the Dundee race, the NWM crew have been work­ing tire­lessly to com­pletely re­build the Ford Ranger raced by Henk Late­gan and Barry White af­ter it was ex­ten­sively dam­aged in a high-speed roll at the wet and muddy Dundee event. “We had to build a new chas­sis for Henk’s ve­hi­cle as the old one was writ­ten off in the crash, so the crew has been ex­tremely busy pre­par­ing what is ba­si­cally a brand-new Ranger,” Wool­ridge said.

“Hav­ing closely in­spected the ve­hi­cle af­ter the crash, it’s re­mark­able that Henk and Barry walked away un­hurt from this high-speed end-over-end roll, and it proves the ex­cep­tional strength and safety that is built into these ve­hi­cles from the out­set. Henk has shown that he is very quick al­ready in his de­but sea­son, but now he needs to fo­cus on adapt­ing his pace to suit cross coun­try rac­ing,” Wool­ridge said.

“The Desert Race will be his tough­est test yet with al­most 1 000 km of rac­ing over just more than two days, but we be­lieve he will come back strong and will once again be very com­pet­i­tive.”

As in re­cent years, the race is based at the Jwa­neng Sports Club. The crews com­plete a short 70 km qual­i­fy­ing loop tomorrow, set­ting off at 1 pm, to de­ter­mine start­ing po­si­tions for the main race. On Satur­day and Sun­day, they set off at 8.15 am on a pun­ish­ing route of ap­prox­i­mately 210 km which will be re­peated twice on both days, mak­ing it an ex­tremely tough test of en­durance. • Fans can fol­low the ac­tion live on the free Ral­lySafe app for Ap­ple and An­droid de­vices.

PHOTO: QUICKPIC

New driver on the Puma Lubri­cants team, Henk Late­gan, has shown that he can fly, but on his long­est race yet in the Botswana 1 000 Desert Race start­ing tomorrow, his co-driver Barry White’s pace notes will be as im­por­tant as speed.

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