Botswana bush dishes out a beating on day two of Desert Race
Day 2 – Stage distance: 452 km
JWANENG, BOTSWANA, 28 June 2014 – The Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race is renowned as one of the toughest events on the Donaldson Cross Country Championship calendar, and already this year’s event has lived up to its fearsome reputation.
The competitors set off from Jwaneng this morning for the long and tough day two that covered a total of 452 km through the rugged Botswana bushveld.
There were lots of surprises in store on this brand new route, specifically the many fast sections which saw the competitors racing flat-out for up to 12 km at a time.
For Atlas Copco Ford Racing, it turned out to be a challenging day with mixed fortunes. Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried Rousseau ended the day fourth overall in the Production Vehicle category after setting off in seventh place.
Unfortunately tied championship leaders Manfred Schroder and Japie Badenhorst dropped back from third at the start to seventh overall.
During the first 226 km loop, the top crews in the Production Vehicle category were all within mere minutes of each other by the time they returned to the designated service park – but with most of the cars showing extensive battle scars dished out by Botswana’s rugged and thorny bushveld.
Although the cars were in good mechanical order, it was already clear that the Toyotas had a distinct speed advantage over the shorter-geared Atlas Copco Ford Rangers.
Shared championship leaders Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy (Toyota) powered their way from 8th place into the lead during the first loop, followed by team-mates Leeroy Poulter/Rob Howie, and Johan and Werner Horn (Toyota).
The Ford crews entered the service park in the same order they started. But with the Ranger of Manfred Schroder and Japie Badenhorst requiring extensive bodywork repairs, team-mates Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried set off ahead of them. Unfortunately Schroder/Badenhorst also incurred a 5-minute penalty due to a minor infringement, as their exit time from the service area hadn’t been completed on their time card.
The second 226 km loop saw the two Ford crews lose more time as a result of the shorter gearing on the Rangers, with Bertholdt/Rousseau ending the day 12 min 23 sec behind the leaders.
The RFS Ford Ranger of Christiaan du Plooy and Henk Janse van Vuuren finished sixth, just behind Sarel van Biljon/Phillip Herselman (Toyota).
Schroder and Badenhorst ultimately finished seventh overall after their penalty, as well as a couple of wrong-slots along the challenging route due to running at the front of the field.
Neil Woolridge (Team Manager – Atlas Copco Ford Racing):
“It was a really hard day on the Desert Race for us. The organisers said it was going to be tough, and it certainly was.
“We started off really well and the top six cars ran within about a minute of each other for the first 200 km. But then we seemed to fall off the pace a bit.
“The route has been a lot quicker than I expected. It’s very technical in places, but then also very fast in other sections. Had we known it was going to be as fast as this, we probably would have changed our final ratios. We seem to be lacking top speed, and that appears to be where we are losing out.
“Other than that, there’s nothing mechanically wrong with the cars. They are battle scarred, but we are fixing them and they will look like new for tomorrow.
“We mustn’t forget that we’re only just over half-way through the race, and there is still a long way to go. We’re not where we would like to be, but we’ll do our best tomorrow and aim for maximum championship points.”
Gary Bertholdt (T4):
“We had a reasonable day, moving up from seventh to fourth place, although it would have been nice to be in the top three.
“The Atlas Copco Ford Ranger held together very well in what were tough conditions.
“It was a very fast route, and you had to be wide awake and concentrating the whole time. At the high speeds we were travelling things can go wrong very quickly.
“We managed to get ahead of Manfred and Japie in the service park, which gave us a nice gap which we were able to maintain through to the end. Currently we are well placed to score some valuable points, but our objective for tomorrow is to finish on the podium.”
Manfred Schroder (T2):
“It was a tough day for us. The route wasn’t easy, specifically starting up front, and we wrong-slotted a couple of times.
“At one stage we were lying second, but in some places it was a totally new road without any tracks, so that’s why our car took a beating and we got lost.
“The penalty was unfortunate, and it didn’t help that we had difficulty getting out of the service park to start the second loop because the road was blocked.
“At least for tomorrow we start in the main group, so our objective is to make up as many positions as possible.”