Impressive performance in SA championship creates solid foundation for Ford’s Dakar Rally campaign
• 2 race victories and podium finishes in all 7 rounds of the Donaldson Cross Country championship held to date
• Proven pace, performance and reliability of locally built Team Ford Racing Ranger
• Extensive experienced gained by local team from Neil Woolridge Motorsport in build-up to Dakar Rally 2014
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA, 15 October, 2013 –The Team Ford Racing Rangers campaigned in the South African Donaldson Cross Country championship have shown exceptional pace, performance and reliability through each of the seven rounds held to date, thus creating a solid foundation for the team’s campaign in the 2014 Dakar Rally.
Following a dream debut with victory and second place in the opening round, the RFS 400 in Magaliesburg in March, the team managed a superb back-to-back win on the Nkomazi 400 a month later.
This impressive showing has been complemented by a trio of second places and four thirds, including claiming the runner-up and third overall positions on the tough Ford Dealer 400 held in the Free State in October.
On the latest round, if it wasn’t for the double whammy of a puncture on the first lap and the race being dramatically shortened due to veld fires in the area, second-placed Chris Visser and JapieBadenhorst would certainly have been in contention for the win.
“The Ford Ranger has performed incredibly well throughout the year, despite this being the first season with this vehicle,” commented John Nagel, Ford Racing manager. “The fact that we’ve claimed two wins and a full complement of podium finishes proves that we have a solid foundation as we prepare for the arduous Dakar Rally.”
Although the Rangers that will be used on the Dakar are slightly different from the local specification, including using an independent rear suspension compared to the solid axle currently required by the SA regulations, the overall design and technology employed by Pietermaritzburg-based Neil Woolridge Motorsport, which builds the vehicles locally, have certainly set the team apart.
Neil Woolridge, who heads up this outfit and has been running Ford’s off-road racing programme for several years, believes that the Ranger’s unparalleled consistency and proven abilities have set the tone for a promising first outing on what is widely regarded as the toughest race in the world. The 2014 Dakar Rally sets off from Rosario in Argentina on 5 January and covers 8 500 km en route to Valparaiso, Chile on 18 January.
“We have used the most advanced technology and the very best global partners in developing the Ranger for our local championship and for the Dakar Rally, and we have shown that it has been right on the pace from day one,” Woolridge says.
“Our recent test session in Namibia allowed us to fine-tune and develop several aspects of the Dakar Ranger, and we believe that we have a very competitive vehicle.”
Woolridge indicates that although his team is flat-out preparing the two race vehicles for South America, while also still contesting the South African championship with one more round remaining, the motivation and energy is at an all-time high.
“It’s less than three months before we line up at the start of Dakar 2014, but the project is running according to schedule. The young and dynamic team we have in place have certainly stepped up their game and pulled together extremely well as we set our sights on South America,” he says.
“We have a very busy couple of months ahead, but it’s an exciting time for all of us, and we can’t wait for our Rangers to proudly fly the South African flag on the legendary Dakar Rally.