The Ford Racing team had a dream start to the Donaldson Cross Country Championship this weekend when Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable led team-mates and former champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst to the finish at the RFS 400 held in the Magaliesburg.
The win was significant in that not only was it Woolridge’s maiden victory, but he also became the youngest driver to win a national Cross Country event. It was also his co-driver Huxtable’s first triumph in the front-running SP class.
Although Woolridge and Huxtable had won Friday’s prologue, it wasn’t all smooth sailing – their Ford Racing Ranger was running behind the RFS BMW X3 of Chirstiaan Du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren for the first half of the 320 km event. Unfortunately during the second loop, a copy of the first 160 km, the X3 pilots badly damaged their rear suspension with a rock – taking them out of contention for the win.
It was, however, the combined maladies of a puncture and a broken sideshaft on their Castrol Team Toyota Hilux which ensured that defending champions Duncan Vos and Rob Howie wouldn’t be able to further contest for a win, and sealed the victory for 21-year old Woolridge and his far more experienced co-driver. Malcolm Kock and Johan Burger in the Kock and Son Hilux nearly put a damper on the Ford festivities when they came frighteningly close to taking second overall, finishing just five seconds behind Visser and Badenhorst.
While an impressive display put Gary Berthold and Siegfried Rosseau’s Atlas Copco Hilux in fourth overall ( finishing little more than half a minute behind third overall) all eyes were on the hard-charging Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy, who managed to slice their way through the field from sixteenth to fifth overall at the finish.
The next round of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship is a new event on the calendar, the Nkomazi 400, which will be held around Malalane in Mpumalanga on 12 and 13 April.