SA Cross Country Championship: Ford target podium finish at Bothaville 400
• The all-new Total Agri 400 in Bothaville presents exciting new challenge for SA Cross Country Series competitors.
• Lance Woolridge and co-driver Elvéne Vonk are currently fourth in the FIA class, and the overall Production Vehicle championship, targeting another podium finish in Ford Castrol NWM Ranger.
• Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer finished as the top Ford entry at previous round, aiming to move up the championship points table.
Round three of the South African Cross Country Series will see an all-new event take place in the Free State farming town of Bothaville. The Total Agri 400 will be held on 18 and 19 September, 2020.
The new event has added impetus on the calendar as it is a crucial points-scoring opportunity for all of the teams due to the shortened five-round 2020 championship.
The Ford Castrol Cross Country team is eager to claw back some ground to its FIA class rivals when the teams return to action at Nampo Park, just outside Bothaville, known for hosting the largest agricultural show in the southern hemisphere annually.
"The Bronkhorstspruit 400 last month was a tough event for the team, but we’ve done some further development work and testing on the Rangers after the previous race which has given us more speed, and we hope to be challenging for a podium position once again," says Neil Woolridge, team principal of Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) which builds and runs the cross country racing Ford Rangers.
The team is still running the V8-powered Ranger this season and while development is continuing of the all-new EcoBoost V6-powered FIA class Ranger.
A realistic target of podium finishes has been earmarked for 2020, and bear in mind this vehicle has the 2018 and 2019 Class T championship wins under its belt.
For this season's championship the team has fitted the Ranger V8 with upgraded brakes and top-specification BF Goodrich off-road racing tyres, and still uses a solid rear axle where the full FIA-spec rivals are equipped with a fully independent rear suspension.
"Although we’re at a disadvantage to the higher-spec FIA class vehicles, with the Total Agri 400 being a completely new event it should level the playing field a bit,"Woolridge says.
"Our podium finish at the season-opening Mpumalanga 400 proved that we can still produce some great results with the current Ranger in tighter and more technical races."
All eyes on Lance and Elvene
With their third-place finish at the start of the season, Lance Woolridge and Elvéne Vonk (#334 bakkie) will be leading the charge as the top-ranked Ford Castrol NWM crew, they occupy fourth position in Production Vehicle championship and the premier FIA class.
The duo finished seventh at the Bronkhorstspruit race following an unusual front suspension spring failure – the first of its kind since the team began racing the current Ranger in 2013.
They will be joined by Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer (#377 bakkie) who finished one position ahead of their teammates in Bronkhorstspruit, having returned to the SACCS for the first time in more than a year.
Two 170km loops for the main race
Qualifying for the Total Agri 400 takes place on Friday 18 September, with a short and sharp 48km loop setting off at 13:00 from Nampo Park, it also plays host to designated service park for the pit crews.
The main race on Saturday 19 September comprises two 170km loops starting off at 08:00, with a mandatory 30-minute service stop splitting the action.
The route travels north towards Orkney, then heads along the Vaal River before turning south for the return stint to Bothaville. As with all motorsport events in South Africa no spectators are allowed in the designated service park or at the event due to Covid-19 protocols.
Follow the action
Don't despair motorsport fans, the action (and track position of the crews) can be followed throughout the each of the 2020 races using the RallySafe app, which can be downloaded free of charge for iOS and Android devices.