19 March 2019 | Motors

Ford Castrol cross country team wins season-opener

Mpumalanga 400

We couldn’t have asked for a better weekend. - Lance Woolridge

Dullstroom - Reigning champions Lance Woolridge and co-driver Ward Huxtable (T34) got their title defence off to a perfect start with a flawless drive to secure their second consecutive win at the spectacular season-opener in Dullstroom.

Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer (T77) joined their Ford Castrol team-mates on the podium in second place, after a determined and tenacious drive in the Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) built and run Ford Ranger.

“This was a perfect start for our championship, and I have to commend the entire team for a job well done,” said team principal Neil Woolridge. “This was the first outing for Lance’s brand new Class T Ranger, and it ran faultlessly. We didn’t have to take a spanner to the car, and Lance and Ward didn’t put a foot wrong the whole weekend.

“Yesterday’s qualifying was tough for Gareth and Boyd, as they were drawn as the first vehicle, and opening the road cost them quite a lot of time. But they never gave up and were rewarded with a well-deserved podium finish,” Woolridge added.

The short sprint-style 64km qualifying session on Friday saw Gareth and Boyd ending fourth fastest, just over 1 minute off the leaders, and behind third-placed Gary Bertholdt and Geoff Minnitt (Toyota).

Lance and Ward set the second quickest time during the opening leg, with a mere 17 second deficit to overnight leaders Johan and Werner Horn (Toyota), which set the scene for a thrilling race amongst the top four Class T challengers.

Main race

And so it proved for the main race on Saturday, with all four crews in contention. The Bertholdt/Minnitt Toyota was the first to falter, picking up a puncture early into the first of the two 160km loops, which allowed Gareth and Boyd to move up a place.

The Horn brothers lost time after a navigation error, which promoted Lance and Ward into the lead, with Gareth and Boyd also passing the Toyota crew when they suffered a puncture – thus handing Ford the advantage going into the scheduled 20-minute service.

Other than Gareth and Boyd suffering a puncture early during the second loop, the remainder of the race was completed without incident, giving the Ford Castrol team an impressive one-two finish and a valuable haul of championship points to kick-start its 2019 campaign.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better weekend,” Lance said. “We built a brand new car and won first time out. With Gareth finishing second, it’s a great result for Ford, Castrol and all of our other sponsors and partners.”

Gareth added: “Opening the road during qualifying wasn’t easy, but we didn’t lose too much time. I pushed hard in the race today, and I’m really pleased that we managed a second-place finish. My car was superb, and we built Lance’s new car in record time for this season, so to end with a one-two is brilliant for the team.” - Quickpic