Words: Ford Racing
Atlas Copco Ford Racing will be going all-out to secure victory on the upcoming Vryburg 450, round six of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship, in the North West province on 12 and 13 September.
Courtesy of: Ford Racing
This race represents the fifth all-new route in six events for the competitors who will be facing some challenging terrain that includes open, sandy tracks and tricky rocky sections.
Notably for the Atlas Copco Ford Racing squad, the Vryburg 450 marks the return of former champion Chris Visser to the driver's seat in the place of stand-in driver Manfred Schroder. He will once again be partnered with his regular co-driver, Japie Badenhorst.
"It's fantastic to have Chris back in the team after making a full recovery from his crash and neck injury on the Dakar Rally in January," says team manager Neil Woolridge.
"Manfred did an excellent job over the past five events after filling in for Chris at the last minute. His third place at the season-opener in Harrismith, victory at round two in Mooi River and consistent strong results have done us all proud. It has been great to have him in our team and we appreciate his never-ending determination and enthusiasm.
"But with the eight-round season drawing to a close and the championship seemingly out of reach, we have now shifted our focus to race wins and preparing for an even stronger challenge for the title next year. It also helps that this is Chris' home town and he knows the terrain very well."
The Ford Racing/Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) crew have endured a hectic schedule over the past month. Immediately following the Force Fuel 450 at Sun City, the Class T Atlas Copco Ford Ranger driven by Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried Rousseau to third overall was stripped and completely rebuilt within 24 hours and then flown to Brazil.
On arrival in South America it competed alongside one of the team's other specially-built Rangers in the arduous 2 700 km seven-day Rally dos Sertões at the end of August.
The X Rally / NWM team finished an impressive third and fourth overall, and earned the Rally dos Sertões team and manager of the event awards. Once the race finished the Ranger was flown back to South Africa with just 48 hours to prepare the vehicle before setting off for the Vryburg 450.
"It has been a crazy couple of weeks and the team has worked exceptionally hard before, during and after the race in Brazil, but we are delighted with our performance. We could have actually finished second overall but a controversial penalty set us back," Woolridge says.
Nevertheless, the Fords ran consistently at the top of the field throughout the Rally dos Sertões, and the recent design changes that were made to the car after the Botswana Desert Race have improved their performance dramatically.
"The Vryburg 450 is likely to be very hot, sandy and dusty, matching a lot of what we encountered in Brazil. So we should be well placed to fight for the win."
The event gets underway with qualifying at 11:30 on Friday 12 September to determine the starting positions, while the racing commences on Saturday the 13th at 08:30.
The start/finish and designated service park will be located at the Vryburg Motor Club on the outskirts of the town, and several easily accessible spectator points are available along the race route.
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Ford Racing and Neil Woolridge Motorsport are proud to be associated with the following sponsors and partners for the 2014 Donaldson SA Cross Country Championship: Atlas Copco, DeWalt, Motul, Mastercraft, Donaldson Filtration Systems, OMP, Time Freight, Willowton Logistics, Ironman 4x4 and Sign Solutions.
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Follow the team's updates and progress on www.facebook.com/FordRacingSouthAfrica