|ABSA 2010: Historic Victory for Ford crew on Toyota Dealer 400 Rally.|
Former South African champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer made off road racing history with a dramatic Production Vehicle category victory for Ford on the Toyota Dealer 400, round two of the Absa Off Road Racing Championship, here today.
It was the first ever Absa series victory for a diesel powered car with Woolridge and Skjoldhammer bringing their factory Ford Racing Ranger TDCi home two minutes and 27 seconds ahead of two more former SA champions, Hannes Grobler and Hennie ter Stege, in the RFS Toyota Hilux. After a third place on the recent Adenco 400 in the Western Cape unofficial scoring has Grobler and ter Stege leading the Production Vehicle championship.
It was also a first win for Woolridge and Skjoldhammer, who have been together for 10 years, since the Carnival City 400 in 1907. The pair are also the only competitors to have won the Roof of Africa Rally on both two and four wheels.
In a dramatic finish reigning SA drivers champion Duncan Vos and Rob Howie nipped in ahead of Castrol Toyota Hilux team-mates Anthony Taylor and Robin Houghton to take the final podium position. Taylor/Houghton bogged down at a river crossing only kilometres from the finish, and limped home fourth ahead of George Barkhuizen and David van Wyck in the AIM Toyota Hilux.
After missing the Western Cape opener it was a stunning performance by Woolridge and Skjoldhammer. A huge amount of work went into the Ranger in the off season and it paid off. "The vehicle was unbelievable," said Woolridge. "This win has totally vindicated the decision at the start of last season to go the diesel route. It was a tough and treacherous route and we took the cautious option. We never had to get out the vehicle so it was the right approach."
Woolridge and Skjoldhammer started seventh on the road but at the end of the first of two loops that made up the race they held a narrow 17 second lead over Adenco 400 winners Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst in the RFS/Visser Transport Toyota Hilux. Donaldson Prologue winners Ramon and Maret Bezuidenhout (Red Star Raceway Toyota Hilux) were third, Kobus van Tonder and Freddie Kriel fourth in the Uni Freight Ford Ranger and Barkhuizen/van Wyck fifth.
Behind them Grobler/ter Stege led Vos/Howie and Taylor/Houghton with all three crews not having happy mornings. Grobler/ter Stege had two flats at the same time, Vos/Howie had steering problems and Taylor/Houghton kept stopping to clean the windscreen after wiper failures.
The position was to alter drastically on loop two and the Bezuidenhout’s and van Tonder/Kriel were to retire for mechanical reasons, while punctures and a mud hole gradually dropped Visser/Badenhorst down the pecking order. With Barkhuizen/van Wyck hampered by overheating problems and a late puncture Grobler/ter Stege and the two factory Castrol Toyota Hilux cars made strides up the leaderboard.
Barkhuizen/van Wyck were later hit by clerk of the course Rex Boreham with a 15 minute penalty for speeding on an open section. It did not change their situation with fellow Free State crew Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greyling (Ruwacon Ford Ranger), who finished behind them, hit with exactly the same penalty.
There were no starters in Class D where new cars are in the pipeline but the Ford and Woolridge cups overflowed when 18-year-old Lance Woolridge, son of Neil, scored his maiden national championship win in Class E. The pair started at the back of the field, and after a long day at the office young Woolridge and veteran Ward Huxtable were the last of the classified finishers in a factory Ford Racing Ranger.
2010/04/20 | 18:27 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/FORTUNE