A 1-2 finish in the 1 000 km Botswana Desert Race in June has given the Ford Castrol Team a new level of confidence going into the double-header Parys 400 on August 18 and August 18.
As rounds four and five of the extremely competitive South African Rally Raid Championship (SARRC) Gareth Woolrige and Boyd Dreyer (#277) took their EcoBoost V6-powered T1+ NWM Ford Ranger to the top step of the podium at the three-day Botswana marathon race, and are looking forward to returning to the Free State event where they earned their first overall SARRC win last year.
Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer
The Desert Race victory handed the young pair the championship advantage, and they currently lead the Production Vehicle title chase with 86 points, 15 ahead of the Toyota crew of Henk Lategan/Brett Cummings, and a further three points ahead of third-placed Giniel de Villiers/Dennis Murphy (Toyota).
Additional confidence comes after having competed at the Baja Spain Aragon in July. They finished a commendable 11th overall in their T1+ Ranger against the top rally raid competitors in the world.
Two-time Dakar Rally winner Nani Roma and co-driver Alex Haro were classified 6th overall in the second T1+ Ranger, with this crucial outing forming part of the build-up to the 2024 Dakar Rally for the NWM, M-Sport and Ford Performance joint venture.
NWM Ford Castrol teammates Lance Woolridge and Kenny Gilbert (#234) secured their first podium of the SARRC season by finishing as runners-up in Botswana. This gave them a solid points haul and placed them fifth in the Production Vehicle battle on 41 points – just 20 points behind the Toyota crew of Guy Botterill/Simon Vacy-Lyle.
“All the hard work, intensive testing and long hours the team has put into the development of our T1+ Ranger have certainly paid off, and this sets the scene for a thrilling remainder of the 2023 season,” says team principal Neil Woolridge.
“Having just come back from Spain where Gareth and Boyd finished 11th, and ran as high as second in one of the stages until they lost time near the end with a puncture, shows just how competitive we are this year, both locally and internationally.
“Going into the Parys event leading the overall SARRC Production Vehicle and T1+ rankings is fantastic for the team, and the back-to-back races in Parys will be an important opportunity to continue building on this momentum. We have no doubt that our rivals will come out with all guns blazing, so we will be giving it everything for this event.”
The NWM-supported privateer team of Wors Prinsloo and Andre Vermeulen (#241) are also eager to capitalise on the two races in Parys, having shown impressive pace in their first season with the T1+ Ranger.
As two full one-day races, the action kicks off on Friday 18 August, with the race headquarters and designated service park (DSP) located at the Afridome Showgrounds on the outskirts of Parys.
Competitors will complete a 32 km qualifying sprint (including 8 km of liaison), starting at 07:30.
The top 10 finishers then do a draw to determine starting positions for the main race. This is followed by the full race loop of 173 km which commences at 09:30 and is repeated twice, split by a mandatory 30-minute service interval.
A separate route is lined up for the Saturday race which follows a similar format, including a 16 km qualifying race with 13 km of liaison. The main race loop comprises 190 km (with 20 km liaison), once again completed twice with a service stop in between.