PRETORIA, South Africa –Team Ford Racing enjoyed a dramatic and eventful start to the 2011 Absa Off Road Championship. The opening race of the season, the Adenco 400, got underway on Friday, March 11.
South African champions Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst enjoyed their debut with Team Ford. The pair claimed the Production Vehicle and SP Class championships last year and are looking to repeat this year.
Their SP Ford Ranger was completely rebuilt during the off season and the duo was eager to fly the flag for the Blue Oval. Visser had to adjust to the left-hand drive configuration of the Ford as well as the torque characteristics of the turbo diesel power, despite having relatively limited time to prepare for of the opening event.
“We’re very happy to be part of the Ford team. We’ve had a steep learning curve over the last few weeks getting to grips with the car and the team but overall the car feels great and we’re very upbeat,” Visser said before the race.
The Ford debutants enjoyed a strong showing in the prologue, finishing third. The main race set off at a cracking pace with the top three SP teams pushing their cars and themselves to the absolute limit. At the start of the last lap the diesel Ranger surged ahead with a two-minute lead and looked set for victory. Unfortunately, a broken rear prop shaft halted their progress and a damaged fuel line further complicated the situation.
“Our teammates were able to get a prop shaft to us. We were able to get the car running again and made it across the finish line. It was a pity to end the race in that way but we really had an opportunity to experience just how much potential the Ranger has and we are looking forward to the season ahead,” Visser said.
Rising Off Road star Lance Woolridge and navigator Ward Huxtable also had a weekend of mixed emotions as they made their debut in Class D. The pair rolled their vehicle during Friday’s prologue and the Team Ford worked through the night to get the Ranger repaired and ready for the main event.
The team’s efforts paid off as Woolridge and Huxtable mounted a strong challenge that saw them claw back time and start the last loop with an 11-minute lead. Sadly, with a few kilometres to go a gearbox problem slowed their progress. Nevertheless, they soldiered on to take second place in Class D.
“It was a testing weekend for us but overall we are very happy with the result. We scored some valuable points and are looking forward to the 2011 season,” concluded Woolridge.