Ford Racing Queen Motor Spares Tarka 400 report

Awesome New Ford Ranger Wins In Debut Race PRETORIA, South Africa, August 13, 2001 -- The new Ford Racing Ranger arrived on the South African off-road racing scene creating a great deal of interest and excitement amongst fans and competitors ...

Awesome New Ford Ranger Wins In Debut Race

PRETORIA, South Africa, August 13, 2001 -- The new Ford Racing Ranger arrived on the South African off-road racing scene creating a great deal of interest and excitement amongst fans and competitors alike! That much is clear from this weekend's Queen Motor Spares Tarka 400, the sixth round of the MSA South African off-road car championships. The brand new, SBM-built Class T Ford Racing Ranger of defending production car champion Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjöldhammer ran away from the competition in rough, muddy and wet conditions in the Queenstown/Tarkastad area. The FIA-spec'd Ranger was the first car across the finish line, a comfortable 4 minutes and 33 seconds ahead of the Class T Nissan Hardbody of Giniel de Villiers and Francois Jordaan, and almost 25 minutes ahead of third-placed Buks Carolin and Hennie ter Stege in a Class T Mitsubishi Pajero.

"This is absolutely fantastic," said an elated Woolridge. "We built this car with the intention of competing as winners in the South African national championship and it is even better than we expected. It was always going to be competitive but, to win first time out, is more than we hoped for."

Woolridge and Skjöldhammer dominated the event from the outset. The V8-powered Ranger set up the fastest time in racing section one on Friday. The duo was just as fast as super-quick Class A special vehicle competitors Bodo and Gary Bertholdt.

This made for an exciting start, with the cars beginning the race side by side according to their prologued times. Woolridge takes up the story: "Even though we don't race against the special vehicle competitors in the championship, it's always nice to be the first car away. With overnight rain softening up the track, we were able to make the most of four-wheel drive and out dragged the Bertholdts into the first corner. Importantly, this allowed us to dictate the pace from the front."

And dictate they did! The Ranger was the lead car at most spectator points, pursued closely by the De Villiers/Jordaan Nissan. "We had an excellent tussle with the Nissan throughout the race," explains Skjöldhammer. "The cars are very evenly matched. The Nissan was quicker in places but, on the day, we had the best all-round package. The new car really is excellent but there is still room for improvement."

Woolridge comments that the suspension set-up wasn't perfect. "The front was too soft and the back was too hard. This meant that the car's balance was affected as our fuel load decreased. The rest of the package was so good that we were able to drive through the problem and we backed off on the second loop to win comfortably in the end.

"Our tyres were also fantastic once again. The Pirellis were ideal for the conditions and, even though the terrain was very tough and rocky, we had a puncture-free run."

The Class E combination of Manfred Schröder and Jack Peckham rounded off a perfect weekend for Team Ford Racing, by winning their class and finishing the race a credible 10th overall in their 2,5-litre turbodiesel Ranger.

"This is a brilliant result for us," enthuses Schröder. 'We're now leading the Class E championship, with only two races to go. The fact that the new Class T car won is also excellent. The two cars look very similar and this is bound to build the rapidly-growing Ranger fan base."

Schröder and Peckham were well placed after the prologue on Friday. The Ranger was the third fastest Class E vehicle over the 37km route. It subsequently had a completely trouble free run in the race to get ahead of eventual class runners up, Kassie Coetzee and Okkie Fourie in a Toyota Condor.

"We were hoping for a top two finish," says Peckam. "Winning is always our number one priority however. And, if we can continue this good form over the next two races, the championship is a real possibility."

The special vehicle category was won yet again by Franz Czepek senior and stand-in navigator Steven Parker in a Class A Chenowth. The Petronas Isuzu KB320 of Mark Corbett and Juan Mohr took the Class D honours.

"This result is the combination of months and months of hard work," concludes Woolridge. "And this is only the beginning. We'll improve our car even further. It will be even better next time out."

-Ford Racing

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Giniel de Villiers , Mark Corbett