The 2017 South African Cross Country Series is rapidly heading towards its grand finale, with only two of the season’s six events remaining. With three crews in contention for championship glory, it’s all to play for at the upcoming Sun City 400, based at the world-renowned resort in the scenic Pilanesberg.
Having scored a well-deserved debut victory last time out at the Harrismith 400, the Ford Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) Puma Lubricants crew of Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer managed to slash the points deficit to current log leaders Johan and Werner Horn (Malalane Toyota).
Woolridge and Dreyer are now just seven points adrift of the Toyota crew heading into the Sun City round. With that prized first win now in the bag, the Ford NWM young guns are more determined and motivated than ever to score maximum points once again as the tail end of the 2017 campaign looms ever closer.
Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable have scored podium finishes on all but the opening round in Lichtenburg, including a win at the Battlefields 400 and second place in Harrismith. This places them third in the championship with a seven-point deficit to Gareth and Boyd – thus making it a nail-biting three-way tussle for ultimate glory.
The third Ford NWM Puma Lubricants pairing of Henk Lategan and Barry White have shown remarkable pace in their first cross country season, although two non-finishes have hampered their challenge this year. Nevertheless, they are fourth in the points log, placed well ahead of far more experienced teams, and remain serious contenders for race victories.
The Ford NWM team heads to Sun City on a high, with the victory in Harrismith followed a couple of weeks later with their second consecutive win at the arduous Rally dos Sertões in Brazil.
With the local crew supporting the X Rally Team on the punishing seven-day 3 300km event, Cristian Baumgart and co-driver Beco Andreotti took their second win in a row in the NWM-built and prepared Ford Ranger V8. Reinaldo Varela and Gustavo Gugelmin finished second overall in another NWM-built Ford Ranger run by South Racing, with the two Fords beating some of the highly favoured factory X-Raid MINIs – a proud achievement indeed for the Pietermaritzburg-based NWM team.
“It’s been an extremely busy but very rewarding couple of weeks for the NWM team, with our boys finishing one-two in Harrismith and then heading to Brazil for the Rally dos Sertões and achieving a double win plus two of our Rangers topping the podium,” says team principal Neil Woolridge.
“Back at home, the remaining crew has been working tirelessly to prepare all three Ford NWM Puma Lubricants Rangers for Sun City, and we are aiming to score maximum points in the last two rounds.
“The Sun City race has typically been a good one for us, having finished one-two there last year. It’s a really nice event, although the terrain is hard, rough and unforgiving,” Woolridge adds. “There has been good rain in the area so we’re expecting to have to contend with long grass, and the drivers will need to keep the cars on the road to avoid punctures.”
As per last year, there’s a 30km liaison section between the event headquarters at Sun City and the start of the race close to the village of Tweelaagte. The sprint qualifying session takes place on Friday 15 September from 13:30, with the main race being flagged off at 08:00 on Saturday.
There are two laps of the race route with a compulsory 20-minute service in between. The spectator points are located within easy reach of the Sun City complex, and public entry to these areas is free of charge.
Cross country fans 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.