Gold for Atlas Copco Ford Racing in Gauteng
information supplied by: Cross Country Commission (Media)
01 December 2014
Gold for Atlas Copco Ford Racing in Gauteng
Race distance: Qualifying: 107 km, Loop 1: 152 km, Loop 2: 152 km, Total: 411 km
Atlas Copco Ford Racing claimed gold by winning the Production Vehicle category on the final round of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship held near Westonaria in Gauteng.
Gary Bertholdt and co-driver Siegfried Rousseau (T4) enjoyed a clean run from third place in qualifying, and completed the two 152 km loops without incident to claim the overall Production Vehicle and Class T victories in their Atlas Copco Ford Ranger. They crossed the finish line a comfortable 2 min 59 sec ahead of Jason Venter/Vince Allemann (Toyota).
The Ford Rangers enjoyed a strong showing in Gauteng's gold mining belt, with team-mates Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (T2) leading the charge for much of the race. The opposite was true of their Toyota rivals who suffered a series of mishaps in the challenging and widely varying conditions which included fast open sections, rough rocky terrain and treacherous mud.
During the first 152 km loop the Fords charged ahead and were never challenged for the Production Vehicle lead. Both Rangers entered the mandatory 15-minute pit stop at the front of the field, and set off on the second loop confident of a top two result.
Ultimately it was not to be, as the Visser/Badenhorst Ranger picked up an electrical glitch approximately 30 km from the end while in the lead. Although they managed to get the vehicle going, it came to a halt just 5 km from the finish line and refused to start again. It was a tragic blow to an otherwise perfect race for the winners of the previous round, the Vryburg 450.
However the Ford Racing team took solace in the fact that they ended the season with an impressive three wins from seven events. They also notched up two second places and a third this year.
Neil Woolridge (Team Manager - Atlas Copco Ford Racing):
"It's a case of mixed emotions today. It is fantastic for Gary and Siegfried to win with an Atlas Copco Ford Ranger on our team sponsor's own event.
"But it would have been great to finish with a one-two, and Chris was leading right up till 5 km from the end. Some small electrical gremlin stopped the car which is very disappointing, but that's the nature of the sport.
"The positives are that we won, and that the Fords ran away from everyone else today, so we are happy with our performance this weekend and the final result.
"Now we go back and work on some big upgrades for next year. The suspension will go back to France and there are some exciting developments lined up in that area.
"Back home the cars will be completely stripped down, rebuilt and upgraded to the same specification as the latest cars we've built.
"At the beginning of March we start with some serious testing and team-building, and then kick off the six events for next year with the first race in Harrismith."
Gary Bertholdt (T4):
"It's great to score the win, but really sad to earn it from Chris' misfortune. We kept each other honest throughout the weekend and we both had the hammer down. So it's really unfortunate from a team perspective, but we're happy with our performance.
"It was a really tough event and you had to keep the wheels on the straight and narrow. You couldn't even go slightly off line without damaging the vehicle.
"The terrain changed constantly. From the deep mud holes to the dust, rocks and very fast stuff, it was impossible to get into a rhythm. We had to concentrate every second of the way to just bring the vehicle home.
"The Atlas Copco Ford Ranger was absolutely phenomenal and allowed us to have a great run out there. It's a fantastic way to end this season, and we're really looking forward to next year."
Chris Visser (T2):
"About 30 km from the end the car suddenly died. We got going again and I set the engine on a different mapping, and it seemed to slowly get better.
"Then 5 km from the end it just stopped, and although we tried everything we just couldn't get the car started again.
"We had a perfect run up to that point. Japie and I didn't make any mistakes today and the Ranger was really good, so to finish the season this way is very disappointing.
"But we're looking forward to next year and the opportunity to compete for the whole season once again."
Ford Racing and Neil Woolridge Motorsport are proud to be associated with the following sponsors and partners for the 2014 Donaldson SA Cross Country Championship: Atlas Copco, DeWalt, Motul, Mastercraft, Donaldson Filtration Systems, OMP, Time Freight, Willowton Logistics, Ironman 4x4 and Sign Solutions.