|Donaldson CC: Ford Ranger proves it´s "Built Ford Tough" in South Africa|
A standard production Ford Ranger has taken on and conquered one of the most punishing rounds of the South African "Donaldson Cross Country Championship", proving beyond doubt that it lives up to the brand´s reputation of being "Built Ford Tough".
The project Ranger Double Cab 3.2 4x4 contested Class E of the "Ford Dealer 400", the 7th round of the local championship which took place near Thaba Nchu in the Free State recently.
The vehicle was prepared for the race by veteran off-road racer Henri Zermatten, and was equipped with nothing more than the requisite safety equipment, off-the-shelf 4x4 shock absorbers as well as improved under-body protection. For the rest, it was as standard as the Ranger you find on any showroom floor.
Driven by Car magazine Associate Editor Sudhir Matai on his cross country debut, with Zermatten making his own debut of sorts as a navigator for the first time, the Ranger completed the race distance of almost 350 km without any incidents or mechanical woes - despite the event being recognised as one of the roughest in the SA championship.
Noted for the exceptionally rocky, mountainous and totally unforgiving terrain, the punishing route claimed its fair share of victims during the race, with 18 of the original 60 starters failing to finish.
"I can´t believe that a standard Ranger can withstand such a beating and come through completely unscathed," an elated Matai stated when they crossed the finish line after no less than 7 hours and 20 min of racing - in the process claiming 3rd position in Class E. "Cross country racing is by far the toughest driving challenge I´ve experienced, and the sheer punishment on car and driver is unparalleled. It proved, without doubt that the Ranger truly is one tough vehicle!"
Mark Kaufman, Ford´s Vice President of Marketing, Sales and Service, commented: "Entering a stock Ranger into a challenging cross country race showcases that the Ford Ranger really is tough. We undertook this project with every confidence that the vehicle would finish the race, and we have to commend Sudhir and Henri for the great job they did in showing off the Ranger´s abilities, particularly as the vehicle was prepared in such a short time, and it was Sudhir´s first cross country event. Despite this, the team brought the Ranger home in one piece, and with a medal for third place in Class E to boot."
Indeed, even the rest of the racing fraternity was surprised that the standard vehicle was entered in the first place, never mind completed the race. Matai was particularly appreciative of the camaraderie, support and welcoming nature of the organizers and fellow competitors, and was impressed at the level of interest shown in the Ranger.
Zermatten was equally enthralled by the Ranger´s first outing, particularly as he had less than two weeks to prepare it for the Ford Dealer 400. The Ranger received a bolt-in roll cage which was then welded in place, along with the necessary safety belt and seat mountings, race seats, intercom, as well as the navigation system comprising a GPS and rally odometers.
Under the skin it was equipped with a safety wiring harness with obligatory external kill switch, along with rock sliders, sump and diff guards and a set of BF Goodrich All-Terrain race-spec tyres. The only modification to the suspension was the use of off-the-shelf aftermarket Old Man Emu shock absorbers.
"I´m delighted how the Ranger has performed, as it has thoroughly impressed despite the incredibly tough route and the fact that it is completely standard," Zermatten said, making his return to cross country racing after a five-year hiatus due to work commitments.
"We had a fantastic time, and even used the air-con for most of the race," he stated, with some amusement. "On this event there is simply no room for error, and although we took it fairly easy while finding our feet on the prologue and the first 182 km loop, we were able push much harder next time around and made up around 12 sec per kilometre on the shortened 122 km second lap."
Zermatten believes that there is great potential for a genuine standard production vehicle class in local cross country racing, particularly with costs spiralling out of control in the established categories.
2013/11/03 | 22:06 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/STEENEKAMP