Cross country star Gary Bertholdt makes factory Ford debut
Dainfern resident Gary Bertholdt faces one of the biggest challenges of his motorsport career when he lines up for the start of the opening round of the 2014 Donaldson Cross Country Championship in the Free State on Friday.
The two-day RFS 450, which starts from the La La Nathi resort on the outskirts of Harrismith at 11:30 on Friday and finishes on Saturday afternoon, sees Bertholdt and co-driver Siegfried Rousseau graduate from being the leading privateers in 2013 to joining the factory Ford squad in an Atlas Copco-backed Ranger V8.
“This is my first ‘works’ drive and represents the high-point of my career after competing all these years as a privateer against the might of the factory teams,” said the Johannesburg businessman, who runs a successful glass manufacturing business.
He is one of the top seeded drivers in the premier T class of production vehicles, renowned for his tenacity, never-say-die attitude and great speed and car control.
“The older you get the wiser you become and at 40 I’m just hitting my stride in cross country racing,” he says. “It’s a challenge. It’s like business – the ultimate test of your mind and overcoming adversity. It’s not just about the driver, it’s a team effort. Success comes from a good combination of driver, co-driver, technical back-up and preparation.”
He and Rousseau finished fourth overall in the Production Vehicle championship in 2013, beaten only by the factory Toyotas of champion Anthony Taylor and former champion Duncan Vos and the Ford of former champion Chris Visser.
“The Ford Ranger is the most competitive cross country racer I’ve driven and we’re confident that with the backing of Atlas Copco and Ford Racing we have a great chance to challenge for the championship this year,” said Bertholdt.
Bertholdt and Rousseau will be among a strong field of 16 contesting class T for vehicles powered by engines of four litres or more with solid rear axle or independent suspension. These include Ford team-mates Manfred Shroder and Japie Badenhorst as well as the two factory Toyota Hilux V8s of Taylor and Leeroy Poulter.
They will also have to contend with 10 entries in class S, for vehicles of up to four litres with solid axle suspension, who score points in their own class as well as the overall championship.
The RFS 450 will consist of a 100-kilometre qualifying race on Friday and a
350-kilometre main race on Saturday in the Harrismith area.