Chance to score double points
Made-in-Maritzburg Rangers on a podium hunt in Botswana
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.
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.