Ford puts development team into the racing seat

18 March 2021 - 10:52 By Denis Droppa
Fanifani Meyiwa, left, and Wiseman Gumede will race a Ford Ranger built by Neil Woolridge Motorsport. Picture: SUPPLIED
Fanifani Meyiwa, left, and Wiseman Gumede will race a Ford Ranger built by Neil Woolridge Motorsport. Picture: SUPPLIED

Ford SA and motor racing partner Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) are entering a development team in the 2021 national off-road racing championship.

Wiseman Gumede, a workshop delivery driver for NWM, will make his motorsport debut in the driver’s seat of a Class T racing Ford Ranger alongside KwaZulu-Natal regional rally champion navigator Fanifani Meyiwa. They will compete in the 2021 SA Cross Country Series (SACCS) in an identical 5.0l V8 Ranger to the one that scooped the 2018 and 2019 Class T championships.

Ford is providing a R1m sponsorship for the season, with NWM supplying and maintaining the vehicle for the seven-round championship, which starts with the Dullstroom 400 in Mpumalanga on March 26 and 27. It costs R3m to build the Class T Ford Ranger and a further R700,000 to run it for one season.

“The Ford Neil Woolridge Motorsport Development Team addresses the need to empower a broader range of competitors to participate in motorsport at the highest level, while attracting a more diverse range of fans and spectators to the sport,” said Neale Hill, MD of Ford SA, at Tuesday’s announcement.

Adrian Scholtz, CEO of MSA, said: “Promoting diversity in motorsport is not only the right thing to do, but it is also essential to ensuring the long-term sustainability of South African motorsport.”

He said the SACCS exposes motor racing to people in rural areas, and this initiative can help create relatable heroes and inspire youngsters across the racial spectrum to become interested in motorsport.

On Tuesday, Ford SA also unveiled its new challenger in the premier FIA class of the SACCS, a Ranger developed around Ford’s 3.5l V6 twin-turbocharged EcoBoost engine and featuring all-carbon fibre bodywork.

Making its debut in the FIA class in a bid to wrest the title from defending champions Toyota, Ford will field two vehicles: two-time Class T champion Lance Woolridge paired with navigator Elvéne Vonk, and Gareth Woolridge with navigator Boyd Dreyer.

The vehicle, built at a cost of about R7m, is a major upgrade from the Ranger V8, which won the local Class T titles in 2018 and 2019 and also took several international victories.

NWA will build the FIA-class Ranger for local and international teams in its Pietermaritzburg workshop. The vehicle produces the maximum power output of 300kW allowed by FIA regulations, with a torque figure of about 600Nm.