- First outing of exciting 2017 season for three Ford NWM Puma Lubricants Rangers
- Youth and experience: Gareth Woolridge / Boyd Dreyer (T77), Lance Woolridge / Ward Huxtable (T34) and Henk Lategan / Barry White (T17)
- Short qualifying loop on Friday 31 March, two full race loops on Saturday 1 April
PIETERMARITZBURG, South Africa, 30 March, 2017 – Ford, Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) and new co-sponsor, Puma Lubricants, will be kicking off the team’s 2017 campaign at the Lichtenburg 400 on 31 March and 1 April, the opening round of the South African Cross Country Series (SACCS) powered by Total.
The Ford NWM Puma Lubricants team is fielding three entries in the Class T Production Vehicle championship, which is expected to produce one of the most competitive seasons yet.
“This is an exciting year for the team with Puma Lubricants coming on board as co-sponsor, and having three cars competing in the series,” says Neil Woolridge, team principal of NWM. “It has been a long off-season since the final race at the end of October last year, but we have been working hard behind the scenes, producing two brand new Ford Rangers and thoroughly rebuilding and updating the third vehicle.
“Our pre-season testing has shown that we have made significant improvements to the Ford Rangers from last year, and we’re expecting to be super competitive right from the start,” Woolridge states. “We have also been spending a lot of time on fitness and training to ensure that the crews are in their best shape going into this season, both physically and mentally.”
Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer (T77) remain the young guns in the squad, now competing in their third consecutive season in Class T. After ending fourth last year with several podium finishes, Gareth and Boyd will be in the hunt for that elusive maiden victory and are expected to be consistent front-runners.
They are joined by the reunited pairing of Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable (T34). Lance sat out of the local series in 2016 but notched up second place overall at the Rally dos Sertões in Brazil. Ward wrapped up his year with a hard-fought second place in the local Class T codriver’s championship in an NWM Ford Ranger, and the duo will be using their experience and proven pace to challenge for glory.
An exciting new addition to the team is the former works rally crew of Henk Lategan and Barry White (T17). Although this will be their first cross country event, they are itching to go racing in the mighty V8-powered Ford Ranger. Admittedly, they face a steep learning curve due to the endurance-based format of cross country racing versus short special stage rallying. They also have to find their feet in the much heavier and bigger Ford Ranger, but their local and international rally experience will no doubt see them adapting quickly and becoming strong contenders as the season progresses.
The dirt starts flying on Friday 31 March with the series adopting a short qualifying loop to determine starting positions for the main race on Saturday 1 April – the latter comprising two race loops covering a total distance of approximately 350 km, split by a compulsory 20 min service.
“The qualifying is much shorter than last year, making it even more important to have a clean run and secure a good starting position,” Woolridge states. “Although there will be 2 min gaps between the cars, dust is likely to remain an issue through the Lichtenburg farmlands. This is a fast event and everyone will be keen to kick off the year with a win.”
The race headquarters and service park are based on the Lichtenburg show grounds on the outskirts of the town, with free access for spectators to these areas and all viewing points along the route.
Fans can follow the action live on the RallySafe app for Apple and Android devices. The app can be downloaded free of charge from the relevant app store and enables enthusiasts to track the cars on a detailed map, download split times and access results.