Ford claims early championship advantage in qualifying for Toyota Botswana 1000 Desert Race
Qualifying distance: 109 km
JWANENG, BOTSWANA, 27 June 2014 – Atlas Copco Ford Racing has claimed the early advantage during qualifying for the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1000 Desert Race, round four of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship.
Located in Jwaneng, 160 km west of Gaborone, for the first time and featuring a totally new route, the 1 000 km marathon race is arguably the most important in the championship. With double points up for grabs, the teams are going all-out to make the most of the opportunity to improve their championship placings.
For tied championship leaders Manfred Schroder and Japie Badenhorst (T2), the 109 km qualifying loop saw them finish third overall in the Production Vehicle category in the Atlas Copco-sponsored Ford Racing Ranger.
The similar Neil Woolridge Motorsport-built RFS Ford Ranger of Christiaan du Plooy and co-driver Henk Janse van Vuuren finished as the top South African crew. They ended 30 sec ahead of Schroder/Badenhorst and 36 sec adrift of Brazilians Reinaldo Varela and Gustavo Guglemin who topped the time sheets in a Toyota.
The second Atlas Copco Ford Ranger of Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried Rousseau (T4) ended up seventh.
Crucially for Schroder and Badenhorst, championship rivals and shared points leaders Anthony Taylor and Dennis Murphy (Toyota) finished eighth, 45 sec behind Bertholdt/Rousseau after picking up a puncture.
Both of the factory Fords had a clean run on the first day with the course dominated by Botswana’s typical soft sand, combined with the ever-present thorn bushes that have already left the bodywork of most cars slightly worse for wear.
Tomorrow the crews face the first full day of racing. They will cover an arduous 452 km, made up of two 226 km loops split by a mandatory 15 min halt at the designated service park located at the Jwaneng Sports and Showground Complex.
The first car sets off at 08:00 and is expected to finish the day’s racing at 13:34.
Neil Woolridge (Team Manager – Atlas Copco Ford Racing):
“I’m happy with our results today. It’s important to realise this isn’t a sprint event. It’s a serious marathon with nearly 1 000 km ahead of us, so to be third and seventh is fairly decent.
“There are pros and cons to where you start in this race. Being up front means avoiding the dust, but with the bush being as thick as it is, we’re already seeing a lot of body damage on the cars.
“But the main thing is the cars are in perfect running condition and are performing really well. The drivers are happy with the set-up and we are well placed for the 1 000 km of racing. I’m confident that we can get a good result.
“A puncture in the prologue is always disastrous, and Taylor clearly lost quite a bit of time. As we saw with Schroder in Malalane, you land up sitting in dust the whole race.
“However the dust is different in Botswana. It doesn’t hang like in our local races, so I wouldn’t read too much into Taylor’s current position. It’s still a long race ahead and it’s very early days.”
Manfred Schroder (T2):
“I’m very happy with today’s result. The route was already churned up in many sections we went through, so we took it easy and tried to save the drivetrain.
“Where we could go fast we did, and obviously it was enough.
“The route was great. There are some very fast sections, including about 9 km where we went flat-out in sixth gear, and then it gets tight and twisty too.
“Tomorrow we will go our own pace. It’s a long day and we will do our best to look after the car, then see where that positions us for Sunday.”
Gary Bertholdt (T4):
“We went alright today, considering it’s a three-day 1 000 km race. We are starting seventh tomorrow which isn’t too bad, and hopefully we will be able to pick off the cars ahead one by one.
“I’ve done about 15 Desert Races and I know this game. The crucial thing is to maintain a steady pace and not make any mistakes. I am quite comfortable where we are and I’m used to coming from the back, so it’s going to be a long two-day charge.
“The route had a lot of very thick sand and very tight sections, so isn’t going to be easy, but I’m really looking forward to it.”