Team Ford Racing came home with a first, second, and sixth position from the inaugural Amathole 500, Eastern Cape. This was round 5 of the 2007 Absa Off Road National Championship, run on July 27 and 28.
Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer finished second overall and second in the Super Production class. Jack Peckham and Lucio Santoro increased their championship point lead with a class win in their 2.5TD Racing Ranger in production class E.
Brandon Harcus and Juan Mohr in sister SP Racing Ranger finished the 500km’s in sixth place.
It was the first event held in the Amathole area, and teething problems were evident.
Friday’s prologue event to determine starting positions for Saturday’s race was dominated by the Absolute SP Ford Ranger of Manfred Schröder and Ward Huxtable who had set the fastest pace of the 80 competitors, forcing two Production Vehicle category competitors to start the 500 kilometre event virtually side by side.
Schröder and Huxtable made light work of the rival racer, and after only a short distance into the first stage had already gained nearly a minute’s advantage. Things were looking good for the Ford Racing Team at the beginning stages of the race with three of the four factory Rangers occupying positions within the top ten places. But it wasn’t to be for the leading Ford, as the pair was forced to retire early into the event with front differential troubles.
However, Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer didn’t hesitate to pick up the pieces in their SP Racing Ranger and were quick to pounce on the woes of many of their fellow competitors. The long time driver/navigator combination put to use years of experience to eventually bring their Ranger home in second position overall, scoring much needed championship points in the process.
Ford Racing’s newest prodigies, Brandon Harcus and Juan Mohr were also on hand to deliver a championship blow to their adversaries in the way of a sixth overall position for the event with their SP Ranger. Despite the relatively young age of the pairing, the two have a wealth of experience between them and used this to their advantage over the treacherously fast route.
The fourth of the Ford Racing Team’s Rangers, a diesel powered Class E vehicle driven by Jack Peckham and Lucio Santoro finished the Amathole 500 first in class and outperformed much of the field by finishing 9th overall. Jack had to complete the final section of the race without the navigational assistance of Lucio, after he started suffering from extreme motion sickness.
Privateers Kobus van Tonder and navigator Riaan Guelpa in their Unifreight SP not only completed the Amathole 500 in 8th position, but also continued and completed the extra 500 km’s of the international Heritage section on Sunday. Botswana privateers Cor van Os and Arjen Kuipers in their Barclays Class E 2.5TD, had to withdraw from the race due to mechanical problems.
“I can’t say I’m entirely happy with the way the event was run, but I’m not complaining after finishing second. It was tough having to avoid animals, spectators and oncoming traffic, but somehow things worked out for us anyway.” – Neil Woolridge
“It’s evident that race organisers have struggled to keep this event safe, and the roads we raced on weren’t properly closed, but I’m still happy with our result. We need the points and the payout for finishing second is good.” – Kenny Skjoldhammer
“All I can say is that I’m looking forward to the next race. Sixth is okay but the Ranger perform better on the tighter and rougher terrain. I’m an off-road racer and this event was more suited to rally drivers.” – Brandon Harcus
“Very fast and smooth. That’s how I’d sum up this event. I’d prefer rougher terrain but I really had fun at some points. I felt like a WRC navigator. We were flat out in sixth gear on the rev-limiter.” – Juan Mohr
“We dropped the Toyota shortly after the start, but unfortunately the front diff developed a problem. These things happen in off road racing. We’ll get it fixed and be back in action in Limpopo.” – Ward Huxtable
“There’s no doubt I would have been faster with Lucio in the passenger seat. I need that extra confidence only a navigator can provide. I don’t know what’s over those blind rises, so I have to lift off more than usual. I obviously still lifted less than everyone else though. We still won.” – Jack Peckham
Team Ford Racing would like to thank their sponsors, Ford, Ford Credit, Rockford Fosgate, Sign Solutions, Time Freight, Absolute and Harden Panel beaters.