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NWM Ford Castrol Team Resumes Rally-Raid Battle at Desert Race in Upington

  • Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer in the hunt for first victory in the NWM Ford Castrol T1+ EcoBoost-powered Ranger, currently third after opening race in Mpumalanga
  • Lance Woolridge and Elvéne Vonk aiming to fight back from non-finish at season-opener after leading the race 
  • NWM Ford Ranger V8 privateers Bernard and Minette Johnstone, along with Christo Rose and Arno Olivier, will be fighting for Class T win

PIETERMARITZBURG, South Africa – The NWM Ford Castrol Team will be back in action when the South African Rally-Raid Championship (SARRC) battle resumes in Upington, Northern Cape, from 24 to 26 June 2022. This will be the second race of the season, due to the cancellation of the Sugarbelt 400 in April after the flooding experienced in KwaZulu-Natal.

Following the strong season-opening performance of the exciting new Class FIA T1+ Rangers, which are designed and built by Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) in Pietermaritzburg, the team is aiming to maximise its points haul at this crucial three-day event, which is officially titled the Toyota Gazoo Racing (TGR) 1000 Desert Race.

Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer (277) are the leading NWM Ford Castrol Team contenders, having finished on the podium in third place at the wet and muddy opening round – the Mpumalanga 400 held in Dullstroom in March – and are currently placed third in the championship. They are eagerly in the hunt for their first victory in the premier FIA category in the EcoBoost-powered Ford Ranger, having come tantalisingly close on several occasions but lucked out at the final hurdle.

Team-mates Lance Woolridge and Elvéne Vonk (234) are determined to make it to the finish and score valuable points after a disappointing non-finish in Dullstroom. The crew were leading the Mpumalanga 400 on day two but slid off the track in the slippery conditions and hit a tree which damaged their vehicle’s chassis, forcing them to retire.

“Our race-leading pace and podium finish at the Mpumalanga 400 bodes well for this year’s Desert Race, which poses the unique challenge of a three-day marathon race format covering almost 1 000km. This makes it the longest and toughest event of the year, but a crucial one in the championship fight,” says Neil Woolridge, team principal of NWM. “We have done further testing and development of our T1+ Ranger since Dullstroom, and I’m confident that we will be even more competitive at the upcoming event.”

The T1 EcoBoost Rangers were very quick at last year’s Desert Race in Upington, with Lance and Elvéne finishing third after an exciting battle with their major title rivals. Gareth and Boyd were also on a charge, having set the fastest times in qualifying and on Sunday’s opening loop in the 2021 event. Unfortunately, they picked up several punctures on Saturday and had a drive belt failure within sight of the finish line on Sunday which set them back. “Gareth and Boyd are more determined than ever to turn their impressive pace into a race victory, and it will be exciting to watch our two T1+ NWM Rangers in action,” Woolridge says.

The Desert Race kicks off with a 75km Pirelli Qualifying race, starting at 12:00 on Friday 24 June at the race headquarters and designated service park (DSP), located at the Upington Expo Centre.

The action resumes on Saturday at 08:00 and comprises two identical loops of 200km each, separated by a 30-minute mandatory service stop. According to the organisers, the route will be similar to last year with a mix of sandy tracks, mini dunes and gravel and rocky sections.

On Sunday the competitors will set off at 08:00 and tackle two loops of a different 200km route comprising small dunes and sandy sections, once again split by the scheduled 30-minute service stop.

NWM-supported privateers

The NWM Ranger V8 remains the leading contender in Class T for lower-specification solid-axle vehicles. Wors Prinsloo and Andre Vermeulen (T41) opened their 2022 campaign in Dullstroom with victory and an impressive ninth place in the overall results. However, Prinsloo subsequently sold his Ranger to X Rally Team, NWM’s long-standing customer team in Brazil, and will be focusing his efforts on the 2023 SARRC season.

This leaves second-place finishers at the Mpumalanga 400, Bernard and Minette Johnstone (T22), and Christo Rose/Arno Olivier (T58) who claimed the final step on the podium, to fight for the Desert Race win and overall Class T title this year.

Access to the DSP is free and unrestricted, and the competitors can be viewed at numerous easily accessible spectator points along the race route.

Follow all the action and track the position of the crews throughout each of the 2022 season’s 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.

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Follow the team’s updates and progress on the following social media channels: