The Neil Woolridge Ford Performance team is preparing for the toughest race of 2016, the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race taking place from 24 – 26 June in the diamond mining town of Jwaneng in Botswana.
As the only 1 000km marathon event on the 2016 Donaldson Cross Country Championship calendar, this represents five times the distance of the preceding race, the first-ever 200km Vredefort Super Sprint held in May – thus making it an extreme test of endurance for the crews and the vehicles alike.
“The Desert Race is always a challenging event, as it’s effectively two 500km sprint races in one,” says Neil Woolridge, team principal of Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM). “It’s also one of the fastest races of the year with several long, flat-out straights, interspersed with tight and twisty sections through soft Kalahari sand and dense thorn bushes.
“This makes it exceptionally hard work for the drivers and navigators, as well as on the vehicles that tend to take a beating on this event.”
NWM Ford Performance will be heading into this race on a high after winning last time out with the highly experienced crew of Chris Visser and Ward Huxtable, who now lead the Class T championship.
Team-mates Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer, who are currently fourth in the championship, will be intent on turning their impressive pace into consistent performance throughout the weekend in order to move up the standings. With double points available for this marathon event, it’s crucial to secure a solid points haul for the 2016 championship battle.
“The latest round of upgrades we developed for the Ranger proved their worth at the last race, and it’s clear that we have the performance to challenge for the win,” Woolridge says. “We just have to try get through the race with as few punctures as possible, which is now more critical than ever with standard 4×4 tyres being mandatory for Class T.”
Along with the two NWM Ford Performance Rangers, decked out in their familiar blue, red and white colour scheme, the 2016 Desert Race will see the second local outing for the Brazilian X Rally Team in their distinctive yellow Rangers, built and prepared by Neil Woolridge Motorsport.
Marcos Baumgart/Kleber Cincea and Cristian Baumgart/Beco Andreotti Neto will once again be competing in the Dakar Rally-specification FIA class after their successful outing on the season-opening Vryburg Endurance race in April.
The action commences on Friday 24 June, starting at 10:30 from the Jwaneng Sports Club, which also serves as race headquarters and the designated service park. The 120km qualifying loop follows a route south to Mokhomma and back to the finish at Jwaneng.
On Saturday, the teams complete two laps of a 236km southerly loop via Mokhomma, Lefoko, Maokane and Khua Pan. The two 196km Sunday loops encompass Sese, Tsonyane and Lefoko before finishing back at the Jwaneng Sports Club.