• The Ford Cross Country team are moving up to the FIA class of the SACCS with a newly built Ford Ranger.
• Ford and Neil Woolridge Motorsport launch development team.
• The SACCS championship kicks off later this month in Dullstroom.
• For more motoring stories, go to Wheels24.
The Ford Castrol Cross Country Team have started a new chapter in their cross country racing journey with the debut of the all-new, purpose-built FIA-class Ford Ranger designed and built by Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) in Pietermaritzburg.
Set to compete in the premier Production Vehicle category of the SA Cross Country Series, the new Ford Ranger is the first vehicle in its class to compete locally under the FIA's new international cross country regulations for turbocharged petrol engines.
Power for the new FIA Ranger is derived from Ford's impressive 3.5-litre V6 twin-turbocharged EcoBoost engine that usually powers vehicles such as the Ford GT supercar or Ford F150 Raptor. In this application, the EcoBoost has been tuned to deliver 300kW and 600Nm, which aligns with current FIA regulations and is carefully controlled by a Motec engine management system.
The development of this new vehicle started two years ago, and the team has been testing since the middle of 2020 to ensure that the new bakkie will be competitive from the word go.
Extensive changes include aggressive new exposed carbon fibre bodywork throughout, gullwing doors and an air-conditioned cabin.
Massive handling improvements have been made thanks to improved weight distribution and a low centre of gravity. A wider chromoly chassis allows for enhanced wheel placement while independent suspension all round and exceptional damping courtesy of the high-performance dual BOS dampers on all four corners will soak up the demanding terrain across which these vehicles race.
The engine is mated to an improved SADEV six-speed sequential gearbox that offers a 10kg weight saving. At the same time, the entire drivetrain has been redeveloped to be lighter and easier to work on with symmetrical drive shafts on both axles to reduce complexity.
Another benefit of switching to full FIA-class specification is integrating BOS hydraulic jacks into the chassis, a huge timesaver when changing wheels mid-race.
Leading the Ford Castrol NWM charge in the premier FIA-class of the SACCS will be Lance Woolridge, the 2018 and 2019 Class T champion, who is paired up with multiple rally co-driver champion Elvéne Vonk.
Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer may be the young guns, but they are already well-established front-runners in the SA cross country championship – and are equally determined to turn their impressive pace into a formidable challenge for podium results and race victories with the new Ranger.
Ford and Neil Woolridge Motorsport launch development team
Ford South Africa and Neil Woolridge Motorsport have joined forces for the 2021 season to run a new development team in Class T of the SACCS.
This initiative will see Wiseman Gumede, who has been a workshop delivery driver at NWM for more than a decade, makes his debut in the driver's seat. He will be joined by navigator Fanifani Meyiwa who has several years experience as a rally navigator and claimed the 2019 Kwa-Zulu Natal regional championship.
Ford South Africa has sponsored R1-million for this pairing to compete in all seven rounds of the 2021 SACCS. The project has the full backing of Motorsport South Africa, which is the project's fiduciary partner managing the funds.
Gumede and Meyiwa will compete in the SACCS Class T Production Vehicle championship in a 5.0-litre V8-powered Ford Ranger designed and built by Neil Woolridge Motorsport. This Ranger V8 is identical to the vehicle that powered Lance Woolridge and co-driver Ward Huxtable to consecutive Class T titles in 2018 and 2019.
As part of its commitment to the Development Team project, NWM will supply, prepare and maintain the race vehicle throughout the year while also coaching and developing the crew as the season progresses.
Continued support for Class T privateers
Along with the announcement of the pioneering Ford South Africa Neil Woolridge Motorsport Development Team, a total of five privateer Ford Ranger teams are expected to be vying for class honours this year. All of the privateer teams are supported by Neil Woolridge Motorsport, ensuring that Ford and NWM remain formidable contenders for the title, and the prized Manufacturers Award at each event.
The SA Cross Country Series comprises seven rounds and kicks off on the 26 and 27 March with the Dullstroom 400.