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Exciting season awaits NWM Ford Castrol Team in SA Rally-Raid Championship

  • Lance Woolridge and Elvéne Vonk start third season together in new EcoBoost-powered NWM Ford Castrol Ranger, competing in new premier FIA T1+ class of SA Rally-Raid Championship
  • Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer more determined than ever to transform impressive pace into top results this year in second NWM Ford Castrol T1+ Ranger
  • NWM-supported privateers once again the main protagonists in Class T of Production Vehicle championship in V8-powered Rangers, multiple Special Vehicle champion Lance Trethewey set to compete in revised Class FIA T1 in NWM Ranger V8
  • 2022 season kicks off with Mpumalanga 400 in Dullstroom on 25 and 26 March

PIETERMARITZBURG, South Africa – The NWM Ford Castrol Team is eagerly anticipating the start of the 2022 South African Rally-Raid Championship (SARRC), which debuts Class FIA T1+ as the premier category of the domestic series, emulating the new regulations introduced this year for the FIA World Rally-Raid Championship and the legendary Dakar Rally.

The first race of the 2022 season is the Mpumalanga 400 on 25 and 26 March, which takes place in the scenic Dullstroom area that is renowned for its wide range of terrain, from tight and technical forest sections to rocky trails and vast rolling hills.

The team will once again be fielding two highly competitive entries, headlined by the extensively upgraded T1+ EcoBoost-powered Ford Ranger designed and manufactured by Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) in Pietermaritzburg. Up to 300mm wider than last year’s T1 Ranger, and featuring long-travel suspension up to 350mm matched to large 37-inch tyres, the latest T1+ Ranger is a formidable machine – and is set to continue the team’s impressive race-winning pace.

“We have done a lot of design and manufacturing work to upgrade our vehicles to the new T1+ specification, and spent the whole of last week testing the new car in conjunction with the team from BOS Suspension in France,” says NWM team principal, Neil Woolridge. “The new FIA T1+ Ranger is a significant change from last year’s T1 Ranger, and is able to tackle rough conditions at much higher speeds thanks to its completely new suspension, wider track and much larger tyres.

“Although there is still some work to do as we fine-tune the setup, we have been impressed with the vehicle’s performance so far and look forward to seeing it in action in Dullstroom,” Neil adds. “While our opposition has had the advantage of running its T1+ car during the second half of last year and at several international events this year, I am confident that we have a great package and will be in contention throughout the season.”

Lance Woolridge and co-driver Elvéne Vonk led the charge for the team in 2021 with a historic debut win for the new EcoBoost V6-powered T1 Ranger at the season-opening Mpumalanga 400, then notching up a second victory at the Nampo 400. This ensured that the championship battle went down to the wire. Although they narrowly missed out on the title, it was an exceptional performance that sets the scene for a thrilling title fight in 2022.

“We are really looking forward to this season as we build on our great results from last year with our EcoBoost NWM Ranger,” Lance says. “Although we were only able to start modifying our cars to the T1+ specification after the final race of the 2021 season, the entire NWM team has pulled out all the stops to design, manufacture, assemble and test the new Ranger to ensure we can start the season with a competitive vehicle once again.”

Team-mates Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer are eager to turn their fortunes around this year. The young pair were the fastest competitors in the field on several occasions during the 2021 season, but misfortune robbed them of top results and they had to settle with two podium finishes and fourth place in the championship.

“Hopefully this will be our year as we fight for podium finishes and wins,” Gareth says. “We had race-winning pace several times last year, but luck just wasn’t on our side. Our new T1+ Ranger is an impressive machine that will allow us to conquer rough terrain with confidence. The extensive work we’ve done with BOS Suspension with the long-travel suspension, and the switch from dual dampers to larger-diameter single dampers per wheel, has made a big difference to our preparations for 2022, and we can’t wait to go racing.”

Ford and Neil Woolridge Motorsport have a long association spanning 25 years, which includes multiple championship victories locally and abroad. However, 2021 was a defining year for the team as it spearheaded the launch of the new turbo petrol era which saw Ford’s powerful turbocharged EcoBoost V6 engine making its debut in the FIA T1 Ranger – a shift that elevated the South African series to new heights.

“The NWM team did us proud last year, and 2022 is sure to be even more exciting with the new Class FIA T1+ Ranger,” says Doreen Mashinini, General Manager for Marketing, Ford South Africa. “The team’s new Ranger looks amazing and takes our “Built Ford Tough” heritage to new heights. I have no doubt that NWM will keep the Ford flag flying high while giving us fantastic ways of engaging with our dealers and customers through the exciting world of motorsport.

“This is an exceptionally important year for Ford with the upcoming launch of our next-generation models of the Ranger, Everest and the industry-defining Ranger Raptor. The exhilarating next-gen Ranger Raptor will be powered by a 3.0-litre EcoBoost V6 engine when it debuts later this year, which brings our motorsport programme and this amazing Ford Performance product even closer,” Mashinini says.

Castrol has been the co-title sponsor of the team since 2019, and supplies all of the oils and lubricants used in the NWM-designed and built Ranger. “Our partnership with the Ford NWM team takes our Castrol EDGE range of premium fully synthetic oils to the pinnacle of performance where they are tested under some of the most extreme driving conditions imaginable,” says Ayanda Mbangata, Castrol’s Brand, Product and Communications Manager for Africa.

“Castrol EDGE is designed to be stronger under pressure and is perfectly suited to modern, smaller-capacity turbocharged engines, like the EcoBoost V6 engine used in the current NWM Ranger,” Mbangata adds. “As we showcase the performance capabilities and efficiency of Castrol EDGE, we will be enthusiastically supporting the NWM team with its new T1+ Ranger this year, and are looking forward to the exciting racing anticipated for this season.”

NWM-supported privateers

While the NWM Ford Castrol Team raises the bar at the top echelon of the SA Rally-Raid Championship, the support provided by Neil Woolridge Motorsport for the Ford Ranger privateers continues as an essential component of the series.

“Along with the manufacturer-supported teams, privateers form a crucial part of the South African rally-raid fraternity,” says Neil Woolridge. “The SARRC is in a healthy and very competitive state currently, but we need to further develop and grow the participation of new competitors, technicians and engineers to sustain the series in the years to come, while attracting fresh sponsors and building a broader following amongst fans and spectators.”

Class T is the entry point into the national championship and will once again feature last year’s runners-up in the NWM Ford Ranger V8, Wors Prinsloo and co-driver Andre Vermeulen. Christo Rose and Arno Olivier were the surprise of the field in their debut season with the NWM Ranger, finishing third overall with a string of solid results – so they can’t be discounted. Bernard and Minette Johnstone will also be back in the mix and aiming for consistency.

Reigning Class T champion Malcolm Kock sold his vehicle and won’t be competing this year. However, his son Frans, who navigated the team to the 2021 title, will be sitting alongside a new entrant to the Production Vehicle championship. Lance Trethewey, the 2019 and 2021 Special Vehicle champion from Pietermaritzburg, is set to join the fray in a newly purchased NWM Ranger V8 this year.

Trethewey and Kock will be competing in the revised Class FIA T1, which will accommodate the competitors not making the switch to the new T1+ class for the much wider, long-travel suspension cars equipped with 37-inch tyres. The narrower T1 cars rely on the same 32-inch tyres and 280mm wheel travel limit previously used in the premier category.

“I’ve been racing special vehicles for about 13 years and felt it’s time for a change,” Trethewey says. “With the technology moving so quickly in the production vehicles it’s definitely the way forward, with a view to hopefully one day competing in the Dakar Rally.”

Trethewey had his first test in the NWM Ranger last week and is enthusiastic about the new challenge. “Driving a production vehicle is very different to what I’m used to with special vehicles, from the way it steers and handles to the braking, but I very quickly got comfortable in the NWM Ranger during the test. We’re going to do a short rally sprint before Dullstroom so I get more time in the car, but so far it feels great,” Trethewey adds. “I really appreciate the support from Neil and Lance in making this move. It’s fantastic to be partnering NWM as we’re all from Pietermaritzburg, and the team has a great product and brand.”

2022 SARRC calendar

125-26 MarchMpumalanga 400Dullstroom, Mpumalanga
229-30 AprilSugarbelt 400Eston, KwaZulu-Natal
324-26 JuneToyota 1000 Desert RaceUpington, Northern Cape
419-20 AugustBronkhorstspruit 400Bronkhorstspruit Gauteng
5 & 630 Sept – 1 OctNampo 400Bothaville, Free State
712 NovemberParys 400Parys, Free State

Follow all the action and track the position of the crews throughout each of the 2022 season’s seven races using the RallySafe app which can be downloaded free of charge for iOS and Android devices.

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Ford and Neil Woolridge Motorsport are proud to be supported by the following sponsors and partners: Castrol, Ford Credit, Mastercraft, Wűrth, Bosch, Sparco, Sign Solutions, Tiger Wheel & Tyre, Ironman 4×4 and Shatterprufe.