A PROFITABLE WEEKEND FOR ATLAS COPCO FORD RACING TEAM
Mooi River, Saturday – The short trip up the N3 to Mooi River proved to be a profitable one for the Pietermaritzburg based Atlas Copco Ford Racing Ranger factory team, with a one/two Production Vehicle triumph on the Toyota Dealer 450 which ended here today.
Veteran Manfred Schroder and Japie Badenhorst scored a convincing win from pole position, and led home team-mates Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried Rousseau. A dream result for brothers Johan and Werner Horn saw the pair, in only their second outing in the premier Class T category, take the final podium finish in the Malalane Toyota Hilux.
The race, round two of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship, provided a tit for tat result after the Team Castrol Toyota Hilux works squad dominated the RFS 450, the opening round of the series, a little further up the N3 in Harrismith. Toyota scored a one/two on the RFS event, with Atlas Copco Ford Racing having to be content with the final podium place for Schroder and Badenhorst.
It was the perfect weekend for Schroder, standing in for the second time for injured regular driver Chris Visser, and Badenhorst. They won the qualifying race, to determine the start order, by a minute and 38 seconds ahead of RFS winners Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy, and were never under threat during the race.
“We never had a problem throughout the weekend, and Japie did a magnificent job on an event that was tough for co-drivers,” said Schroder who, prior to stepping into breach after Visser underwent neck surgery, last raced at national level six years ago.
Schroder’s win takes on added significance in that his national career, in Ford machinery, centred around Class D and Class E where he won national championships. He managed around 150 kilometres of testing in the Class T car before the RFS race, with his biggest problem coming to grips with left hand drive.
Schroder/Badenhorst finished with a two minute and 23 second advantage over Bertholdt and Rousseau who started sixth on the road after a disappointing qualifying race. They profited when Taylor/Murphy dropped out with suspension damage after hitting a rock, while Jason Venter and Vince van Alleman rolled the 4×4 MegaWorld Toyota Hilux.
Bertholdt and Rousseau had moved into second by the halfway stage. From that point on the two Atlas Copco Ford Racing crews were in complete charge of proceedings.
The Horn brothers started behind Bertholdt/Rousseau and also gradually worked their way up the pecking order to finish ahead of former circuit racer Hennie de Klerk and Johann Smalberger in the RFS BMW X3. It was a best ever national finish for the pair in what was an impressive performance.
The top five was completed by Deon Venter and Ian Palmer who gave the 4×4 MegaWorld Toyota Hilux team something to smile about. The result also gave Venter/Palmer honours in Class S for vehicles with an engine capacity of up to four litres with solid axle rear suspension.
“We could not have had a better car,” said Venter. “With a better start position we would have been able to run with the V8 cars in Class T.”
Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie, after a second place on the RFS 450, salvaged some pride for the factory Team Castrol Toyota squad via sixth place – after starting from the back of the field. It was a fighting performance from Poulter and Howie who also ran into suspension problems during the qualifying race.
Poulter/Howie were followed home by a trio of Regent Racing Nissan Navara entries. Mike Whitehouse/George Myburgh were comfortably ahead of Terence Marsh and former rugby Springbok AJ Venter, with Archie Rutherford and Gerhard Schutte next up.
Rutherford/Schutte were second in Class S with Ruwacon Racing Ford Ranger crew Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greyling completing the top 10 and taking third in Class S.
A tight and tough route also took its toll on Production Vehicle entrants. There was a 50 percent rate of attrition but Ford Racing’s first win since the corresponding event last season, and unofficial scoring sees Schroder and Badenhorst leading the championship.
The next round of the Donaldson Cross Country Chasmpionship is the Malalane Nkomazi 450, in Mpumalanga, on May 16 and 17.