Rallying in South Africa has been given a big shot in the arm with the announcement that Ford, one of the most revered names in the history of this discipline of motor sport, is returning to the fray in the top class after an absence of more than a decade. During this period only two companies – Toyota and Volkswagen – have contested the local championship.

Carrying the banner for the Ford Silverton-based manufacturer will be a double championship-winning team that will field a new Ford Fiesta in the top Super 2000 (S2000) category for multiple champions Charl Wilken and Greg Godrich.

The other important news is the arrival on the local motor sport scene of a major international company, Basil Read, as the main sponsor of the team with Konica Minolta South Africa, the business solutions company that uses the bizhub brand and has been a long standing sponsor of the team.

The Fiesta has been developed in Britain by Malcolm Wilson’s M-Sport operation, the team responsible for Ford’s highly successful World Rally Championship campaign. The new car, which complies with the latest international regulations made a dream debut in the famous Monte Carlo Rally with Mikko Hirvonen at the wheel, dominating the event from start to finish.

The Basil Read/bizhub Ford Team will enjoy considerable support from the Ford Dealers and Ford Credit as they tackle the eight events that make up the Sasol national rally championship.

Ford was a major player on the SA rally scene for many years, and was dominant for a long period with its iconic Escorts. It is one of the most successful manufacturer in the 50-year history of local rallying, having notched up 54 rally wins and two manufacturers’ championships while the Ford drivers and co-drivers collected five overall national titles.
Wilken and Godrich are no strangers to the rally scene, with a win-to-start ratio approaching 70% since the pair teamed up at the start of the 2004 season.

During this period the crew has amassed 10 rally titles, including back-to-back Production Car championships in the past two seasons, while Wilken collected 13 championships in a successful 17-year motor sport career which has also included karting and saloon car circuit racing.

Ford Southern Africa’s Vice-President for sales, marketing and service, Jacques Brent, said: “It’s great to be back after 10 years away from the local rally scene.  We are delighted to partner with the new Basil Read/bizhub Ford Team. The Fiesta S2000 will complement our Ford Focus production car circuit racing programme and further entrench Ford’s high performance pedigree which gives added excitement to our wide range of Ford vehicles on offer to the buying public”.

The CEO of the Basil Read Group, Marius Heyns, says he and his company are very excited about the new venture of motor sport sponsorship. “Although we have a heritage as a construction company in South Africa that stretches back to 1952 we are now a vibrant player in many other countries of the world, while remaining a major player in our home country.

“We see the sponsorship of the Basil Read/bizhub Ford team as an excellent way to build our brand in an exciting, all-action form of motor sport that not only has wide appeal in South Africa, but is in the process of getting a big boost internationally with the imminent introduction of a new formula in the near future.”

The Managing Director of Konica Minolta South Africa, Alan Griffith, says he is delighted that his continuing support for the pairing of Charl Wilken and Greg Godrich which has brought great results to the brand over a long time, now enables the team to challenge for overall wins.

“The formation of the new Basil Read/bizhub Ford Rally Team is the culmination of a great deal of hard work to tie in these three blue-chip brands.  We have a great opportunity with the new Fiesta S2000 to give the South African public a spectacular show over the coming seasons”, added team director, Flip Wilken.

This is a fantastic opportunity for Greg Godrich and myself, and it’s great to be part of such a professional team, commented Charl Wilken. I am looking forward to the season and getting behind the wheel of the new Basil Read/bizhub Ford Fiesta S2000. I need to stay realistic, the car will only arrive in South-Africa a few days before the rally and testing will therefore be very limited. However, I am sure once the team and I are up to speed with the new car, we will be a strong challenger for overall victories.