With just two races left to go in the season, Team Ford Racing is going strong and has high hopes for the Toyota Dealer 400. A familiar brand on the podium, the six-man team and their “Built Ford Tough” Rangers are hoping to claim another victory.
Round seven of the Absa Off Road Championship, the Toyota Dealer 400 takes place on 22/23 October in Mpumalanga.
Team leader and driver of the Class T Ford Ranger, Neil Woolridge, says that he is looking forward to the Toyota Dealer 400 as it is one of the last races for the year. “I am hoping that co-driver Kenny Skjoldhammer and I will have better luck than last year. We were right near the front when a broken diff halted our hopes of reaching the finish line,” Woolridge reminisces. “This time around, we are definitely aiming to improve on our performance!”
As always, Woolridge believes that his BF Goodrich shod Class T Ford Ranger will give the other Class T rivals a run for their money. "It's a fantastic machine, which is right on the pace; a fact that we proved without doubt at the last race.”
Woolridge anticipates that the track will not be as fast as Mafikeng, nor will it be overly rough. “This is a pity; our vehicles perform at their best when faced with the most challenging terrain. The Toyota Dealer 400 will be like a walk in the park for our Ranger!”
Having said this, Woolridge is going all out for a podium position. “Naturally, we would like to win the race – that is every competitor’s aspiration. However we are firstly and fore mostly in search of the South African championship title. And we certainly won’t take crazy chances at the Mpumalanga race. With just two races to go and the championship race still neck and neck, we have to bank as many points as possible.”
With the season drawing to a close, the team is busy preparing itself for the changing rules of next season and so no major changes are being made to the vehicles. “We will fix anything that requires fixing but, other than that, we are not doing any more development on the vehicle,” explains Woolridge. The Class T Ranger didn’t encounter any misfortune at the Mafikeng 500, so the vehicle should be race ready well in advance of the next event.
The Mafikeng race was disappointing for class D entrants Manfred Schröder and Jack Peckham in the 4-litre Ford Ranger, but these guys are tenacious and they refuse to let it shade their optimism for this race. “We are starting this race with nothing to lose,” Schröder says, a distinct note of determination in his voice. “There’s no point in dwelling on past injustices, so we are moving on and are going to give this race everything we have. All in all, our Ford Ranger has been performing well and, as with any new model, kinks are to be expected. ”
Schröder loved the Mafikeng 500 because average speeds were so high and he hopes for more of the same at the Toyota Dealer 400. “Traditionally, this is a fast race – which I definitely prefer. Although rumour has it that this year's event is slower than usual. I, for one, hope that's not true,” he says. “Either way, from experience I can say that this is an exciting and enjoyable race, one which I am looking forward to participating in.”
Naturally, he is hoping for a quick race because his Ford is right at home on a fast track. “Our Ranger boasts terrific power, which is ideal for fast events. It’s going to be great fun to drive and our vehicle will also be competitive. If the race is not fast, them we hope that it's really tough - as everyone knows, our bakkies are the toughest on the racing circuit!"
With a fourth place finish in Class E in their last race, Baphumze Rubuluza and Kulile Vakalisa are, like fine cheese, getting ever better with time. “A considerable amount of time and energy were put into the 2.5-litre Turbo Diesel Ford Ranger and it definitely shows,” comments Rubuluza. “Neither Kulile nor I have the luxury of hindsight, as each race for us is a first, so we rely on the other guys on the team for guidance and advice. Having driven our Ford Ranger during the last season, Manfred knows the vehicle inside out and has been a fountain of knowledge.”
The Class E team was happy with the fast pace of the last race and feels confident about their chances in the upcoming run. “We are also extremely pleased with our Class E Ford Ranger 2.5TD 4x4 Double Cab, which has been incredibly reliable this year. Despite being close to a standard vehicle, our Ranger has endured real punishment on some ultra-tough tracks and it has come through with flying colours – which is precisely what we intend to achieve in Mpumalanga!” Rubuluza predicts.
The team would like to thank its generous sponsors for their continued support. The Class T Ranger is sponsored by BF Goodrich Tyres, Time Freight and Joey's (panel beaters and painting). The Class D Ranger is sponsored by BF Goodrich, Time Freight, Joey's, Barloworld Pietermaritzburg and Husqvarna Forest and Garden (chainsaws). The development team is supported by Pirelli, Time Freight and Joey's.