New challenge for off-road racers

Off-road racing heads into new territory this weekend for round two of the South African Cross Country Series (SACCS) with teams taking on a challenge based in the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains around the town of Winterton in the Berg 400.

The Ford Castrol Cross Country Team is looking forward to another strong performance, following their opening round success when reigning Class T champions Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable scored a victory at the season-opening Mpumalanga 400 in Dullstroom during March in the Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) built and run Ford Ranger.

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Brazilians Marcos Baumgart and Kleber Cincea will take up their seats in the second Ford Ranger once again after missing the opening race. Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer filled in for the reigning Brazilian cross country champions for the first event and came hom second.

Woolridge and Dreyer are focusing their efforts on the all-new FIA-class Ranger which is being designed and manufactured at the NWM facility in Pietermaritzburg and will debut later this season in the SACCS.

The Berg 400 will be based in Winterton, with the route incorporating the town of Estcourt and traversing the foothills of the Drakensberg which is sure to make it another spectacular and scenic event for competitors and spectators alike.

“The Berg 400 looks set to be a great event with lots of farmlands and relatively hard, tough conditions,” says NWM team principal, Neil Woolridge. “We know the area fairly well but have never raced there, so it will be a new challenge for all of the teams.

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“We have had a lot of rain in KwaZulu-Natal over the past couple of weeks, although I expect most of it to have dried up by race day. However, I’m sure there will still be some muddy patches to add some excitement.

“Our focus is on retaining the championship this year, so we’re building on the clean run we had in Dullstroom and hoping for back-to-back wins,” Woolridge adds.

The Waffle Hut on the outskirts of Winterton will be the hub for all the activities for the Berg 400, incorporating the start and finish, as well as race headquarters and the designated service park (DSP).

The action gets underway on May 17 with a 64 km qualifying race, starting at 13:30 and travelling to Moorleigh before returning to Winterton.

On Saturday, May 18 the teams set off at 08:00 and will complete two laps of the 170 km route around Estcourt. According to the organisers, the crews can expect technical terrain with a combination of veld, mealie fields, long grass and undulating sections.

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The two loops are separated by a compulsory 30-minute service at the Waffle Hut, with the second run commencing at 12:00. Spectators will have access to a number of superb points where they can see the cars in action, including a stadium section about 30 km from the start based on the outskirts of Estcourt, just off Wembesi Road.

Additional spectator points are positioned along the Loskop Road, in and around Estcourt and at the Ennersdale rail station.

Fans and spectators can follow the action and track the position of the crews throughout the race using the RallySafe app which can be downloaded free of charge for iOS and Android devices.

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