Championship Battle Intensifies for NWM Ford Castrol Team at Penultimate Round of 2023 SARRC

The 2023 South African Rally-Raid Championship (SARRC) has hit the final stretch, and with two rounds remaining the title battle has intensified for the Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) Ford Castrol Team.

Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer (#277) head into the penultimate round, the Renergen 400 in the Free State town of Welkom on 6 and 7 October 2023, in the overall lead of the Production Vehicle Championship in their FIA T1+ EcoBoost-powered Ford Ranger.

They currently have a three-point advantage over the Toyota crew of Henk Lategan/Brett Cummings, and five points over Giniel de Villiers/Dennis Murphy (Toyota). However, in the T1+ class standings, Gareth and Boyd are placed second, three points behind Lategan/Cummings. Accordingly, it’s all to play for when the crews tackle Round 6 of the series, which will be based at the Phakisa Raceway circuit just outside Welkom.

The second NWM Ford Castrol pairing of Lance Woolridge and Kenny Gilbert (#234) are fifth in the overall Production Vehicle and T1+ standings. The duo are aiming for a strong result as they continue their first season together, having shown impressive pace throughout the year.

“As expected, this year’s SA Rally-Raid Championship is extremely close, and it’s going to be a thrilling fight to the end of the season,” says Neil Woolridge, NWM team principal. “Gareth and Boyd have scored four podiums out of five races thus far, including the overall victory at the Botswana Desert Race, with Lance and Kenny coming home second.

“We have made numerous changes and upgrades to our T1+ Ranger during the season, and the results have proven that we have a very competitive car. We will be giving it everything to ensure that the fight for this year’s championship goes right down to the wire,” Neil says.

The NWM-supported privateer team of Wors Prinsloo and Andre Vermeulen (#241) have achieved several top 10 finishes this year in their T1+ Ranger. They are 11th in the T1+ standings and have their sights set on moving up a couple of places in the class championship.

Race programme

According to the SARRC race organisers, the Renergen 400 will feature the Super Event format, comprising a short Pirelli Qualifying Race on Friday, 6 October followed by an opening race loop on the same day, then two further loops on Saturday 7 October.

With the event based at the Phakisa Raceway, the prologue starts at 10:15 and adds a unique twist by incorporating half of the race track before exiting and heading onto more familiar off-road terrain towards Odendaalsrus.

This opening 15km sprint will determine the starting order for Friday’s first 58km race loop that sets off at 13:15. Friday’s results will determine the starting order for Saturday, which will see competitors completing two 164km loops, kicking off at 08:00 and separated by a mandatory 30-minute service stop.

The action is expected to be fast and furious, with lots of open sections along mealie fields, along with mine dumps and some more tight and technical areas.

Fans can follow all the action and track the position of the crews throughout each of the 2023 season’s seven races using the RallySafe app, which can be downloaded free of charge for iOS and Android devices from the relevant app stores.

2024 Dakar Rally

Ford Performance is set to expand its global motorsports effort by competing in the legendary Dakar Rally, one of the toughest off-road competitions on Earth.

The purpose-built, race-ready Ford Ranger will compete in the 2024 Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia in the Rally Raid T1+ class. Ford Performance is collaborating in a comprehensive test and development program with M-Sport and Neil Woolridge Motorsport to prepare for what is expected to be an extremely tough challenge come January 2024.