FORD RACING HAS A TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW ON NKOMAZI 400
Ford Racing has a tough act to follow on the Nkomazi 400, round two of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship in Mpumalanga on April 12 and 13.
The event, based in Malalane, is a new one on calendar and ‘neutral territory’ adds an extra dollop of intrigue to the Production Vehicle battle between the Ford Racing and Team Castrol Toyota factory teams, and the horde of privateers in BMW, Ford, Toyota and Nissan Navara machinery. A stunning double on debut for the new Ford Ranger, with Lance Woolridge/Ward Huxtable leading home former South African champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst on the RFS 400, has thrown the ball squarely into the opposition court.
Just how the opposition led by the Team Castrol Toyota Hilux entries of reigning champions Duncan Voss/Rob Howie and Anthony Taylor/Dennis Murphy, react sets the stage for a dramatic weekend. More Ford dominance will be a psychological blow for the Castrol Toyota team, but this is not just a contest between two factory teams.
The privateers have plenty of ammunition of their own and North West pair Malcolm Kock and Johan Burger (Kock and Son Toyota Hilux) will be looking for a repeat of the form that saw them on the podium on the RFS 400. Other dangerous Toyota entries include Gary Bertholdt/Siegfried Rousseau (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux), former champions Jannie Visser/Joks le Roux (Team Barberspan Toyota Hilux), Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson in a second Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux and Deon Venter/Ian Palmer in the Trysome Racing Toyota Hilux.
There is also a strong line-up of Ford privateers led by Louw de Bruin and Riaan Greyling, Gerald le Roux/Hendrik Badenhorst in the Ruwacon Rangers. KwaZulu-Natal crew Rowan Lamb and Lyle Parker make their first appearance in the Force Fuel Ford Ranger, and the UniFreight team throw two cars into the fray for Kobus van Tonder/Freddie Kriel and brother and sister Jacques and Lizelle Van Tonder.
Nissan also has a formidable privateer line-up led by the Regent Racing trio of Terence Marsh/Gerhard Schutte, Mike Whitehouse/Matthew Carlson and Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr. Marsh/Schutte and Whitehouse/Carlson will be out in V8 models and will be looking to up their games.
Germans Jurgen and Daniel Schroder also form part of the Regent Racing stable in another Navara, along with Archie Rutherford and Roxy Louw in the Imperial Automotive Nissan Navara. International model, film, TV and surfing star Roxy joins the list of celebrity co-drivers to sit alongside the unflappable Rutherford.
The biggest threat, however, could come from RFS BMW pair Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren. Before suspension damage ended their RFS 400 challenge the Pretoria crew were running neck and neck with Woolridge and Huxtable, and for any betting man would be worth a flutter.
New races on the calendar bring with them an air of the unexpected. That simply adds another twist to a premier Class SP battle that is loaded with potential for drama.
Two brothers will be desperate to take the honours in Class D. Johan and Werner Horn (Malalane Toyota Land Cruiser) grew up in Malalane and apart from sentimental value a win for the pair would kick start their championship campaign. They failed to finish the RFS 400 so there is a double incentive for the brothers on home soil.
Their biggest threat comes in the form of RFS 400 winners Jason Venter and Vincent van Allemann (Trysome Racing Toyota Hilux) and former champions Jack and Sarel Oosthuizen in the LMC Land Rover. The two crew offer interesting contrasts with the former champions reliability specialists.
With eight wins in the last nine events behind them Dirk Putter and Koos Claasens will be the outright favourites in Class E in the ex factory Ford Ranger. Their toughest challenge will come from the Force Fuel Toyota Hilux of Luke Botha and Kevin Durston.
The route for the Nkomazi 400 is both spectacular and spectator friendly with race headquarters and the designated service park at the Riverview Preparatory School in Malalane. Public entrance to these areas and spectator points along the route will be free of charge with spectator guides available at race headquarters and at Malalane Toyota.
The prologue on Friday, April 12 to determine grid positions will start at 12:30 and the race the following day at 08:30.