PIETERMARITZBURG, SOUTH AFRICA, - The Atlas Copco Ford Racing team is going all out to regain some of the championship momentum lost in the previous rounds when the Donaldson Cross Country Championship arrives at Sun City for the Force Fuel 450.
Despite winning the second race of the season and claiming regular podium finishes during the year, arch-rival Toyota has dominated the recent races. However the Ford Racing squad is determined to turn the tide as the second half of the 2014 series commences at the popular Pilansberg resort on 8 and 9 August.
"We have done a lot of work on the Rangers and made some really good improvements since the Botswana Desert Race," says Atlas Copco Ford Racing team manager, Neil Woolridge. "This has been backed up by lots of good quality testing that has allowed us to refine the performance of the two Atlas Copco Fords.
"The Sun City event is always a tough race with rough terrain and lots of hidden obstacles. Securing a good position in the prologue will be crucial, and the dry conditions will make this even more critical as we expect there to be lots of dust during this fast race."
The Ford Racing squad has always enjoyed a strong showing at Sun City, finishing third and fourth last year.
"This event has been a good hunting ground for Ford Racing, and it is certainly helped by the enthusiastic support from the Ford fans, particularly due to the close proximity to Gauteng and Ford's Silverton Assembly Plant in Pretoria," Woolridge says.
Atlas Copco Ford Racing's Manfred Schroder and Japie Badenhorst are currently third overall in the Production Vehicle standings on 70 points, just two points behind Malalane Toyota's Johan and Werner Horn. Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy currently lead the standings on 100 points in their factory Toyota.
The Ford pair will be pushing hard to regain second place in the championship on this fast-paced event.
Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried Rousseau earned a hard-fought fourth overall in Botswana in the second Ford entry. This moved them up to fifth overall in the championship on 50 points, and they have their sights set on closing the 17-point deficit to the Toyota of Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie.
For the fourth time in five races the crews will be racing through virgin territory, as the organisers have charted an all-new route through the Pilansberg. The North West province is renowned for its tough bushveld and rocky terrain.
According to route director Adri Roets, most of the race is made up of thorny bush, overgrown sections and virgin veld. The race passes close to many villages and is designed to be spectator friendly with numerous spectator points accessible from the Sun City complex via tar and gravel roads.
Race headquarters and designated service park will be located at the Sun City resort, with free public access to these areas and the spectator points.
A ceremonial start takes place for the Force Fuel 450 at Sun City, with the official timed start/finish at Bapong village on the outskirts of the complex.
Qualifying kicks off at 11:30 on Friday 8 August, and the race starts at 08:00 on Saturday the 9th.
Besides the Cross Country action, Ford Racing will be hosting an activation at the Sun City race headquarters where participants stand the chance of winning a once-in-a-lifetime in-car experience in the mighty V8-powered Atlas Copco Ford Racing Ranger.
Along with a superb range of Ford vehicles on display, there will also be two racing games for visitors to try their hand at racing in the virtual world, as well as have their picture taken in the popular 'Race Face' booth. Make sure to look out for the exciting Ford Racing stand.