Mafikeng Ford Racing preview

Ford Racing Looking For A Repeat Performance In Mafikeng PRETORIA, South Africa, July 4, 2001 - Fresh from its first victory in the South African Off-Road Car Racing Championship, the Class T Ford Racing Ranger Super Truck, in the hands of ...

Ford Racing Looking For A Repeat Performance In Mafikeng

PRETORIA, South Africa, July 4, 2001 - Fresh from its first victory in the South African Off-Road Car Racing Championship, the Class T Ford Racing Ranger Super Truck, in the hands of reigning South African Production Car champions Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer, will be competing for a second consecutive victory in the fifth round of the 2001 championship.

The O'Hagans / Kopanong Hotel 500, to be held in and around the Mafikeng area, on 13 and 14 June 2001 is expected to be Woolridge and Skjoldhammer's last race in their current Ranger, and the duo are hoping for a good result. Construction of the team's new Class T Ranger, being built by SBM in France, is almost complete and the vehicle should be ready in time for the Tarkastad event in August.

"After our win in the Toyota 1000 Desert Race we are confident of wrapping up our programme in this vehicle with another good result," says Woolridge. "We would love to win the event, and we'll be pushing hard from the outset, but we'll be very happy with a top three finish." It won't be an easy task, however. Last year's Mafikeng event was very open and fast, and Woolridge is hoping the organisers slow it down this year. "Obviously the rougher and tighter the conditions, the better our Ranger will perform," he explains. "But it isn't just for our benefit that I hope the event is slowed down. The course was quite dangerous in some parts last year, with really tight corners at the end of some very long straights. As far as driver safety is concerned the more they slow it down the better."

No matter the conditions, the V8-powered Ranger will be well prepared to take on the field. Although the Ranger will feature no new developments for the upcoming race, the Ford Racing team went through the same painstaking process that ensured the vehicle's reliability in the gruelling 1000km Desert Race. "Apart from replacing all the damaged body panels, we once again stripped the entire car and stress and crack tested every component. A well-prepared car is potentially a race-winning car and our Ranger is exactly that," Woolridge comments.

Well prepared the vehicle may be, but the 35km speed section (Racing section 1), which will determine the starting order for the race, will be critical says Skjoldhammer. "This race is usually run in very dry, dusty conditions," he explains. "It is critical that we start near the front of the field because of the dust. The leader on the road should be able to hang onto the lead because overtaking will be very difficult."

In Class E, the Ford Racing Ranger of Manfred Schroder and Jack Peckham is also expected to be amongst the front-runners. Schroder and Peckham have been nothing short of a revelation, in this, their first year of production car racing. After a brilliant second place in Class E in their first event at Lichtenburg, the duo followed up the disappointment of not finishing the Mitsubishi Barberspan event with back-to-back class victories at the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 and the Toyota 1000 Desert Race. Schroder is lying fifth in the driver's production car championship, and Peckham is holding down the same position in the co-driver's championship. The rookie team is also lying second in the Class E title race. "If you had told me at the beginning of the season that we would be lying fifth in the production vehicle championship after four races I would have laughed at you," smiles Schroder. "We never expected to do so well from the outset, but the Ranger is a really competitive vehicle and we are enjoying every minute we spend in the car."

This will be the first time that either Schroder or Peckham race in Mafikeng, and while Schroder agrees with Woolridge that the organisers need to put driver safety first, he hopes they don't slow down the race too much. "Because Class E cars are limited in the modifications that can be made to the suspension, the faster and smoother the racing conditions, the better it will suit our car," he explains.

Nevertheless Schroder is confident that they can bring the turbo-diesel Ranger home in the top two in Mafikeng. Schroder clarifies: "We replaced all the bushes and ball joints in the front suspension after the Desert Race as a precautionary measure, and we expect to be as competitive in this race as we have been throughout the season."

But what about Woolridge and Skjoldhammer's title hopes? "This is the first time that Ford is competing in off-road racing outside of the United States and because we were building a new car, this season was always going to be a learning platform for us," says Woolridge. "With good finishes at Lichtenburg and Barberspan we would have been able to challenge for the title, but it was not to be. Sometimes racing goes like that.

"This doesn't mean we won't be pushing as hard possible, it just means that we aren't even looking at the championship. We are taking things one race at a time, and hoping for some strong, consistent finishes. If we then find ourselves in with a shout, then we can worry about the championship," he concludes.

-Ford Racing

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