The Nissan Sugarbelt 400 represents a home race for Team Ford Racing and the team is therefore itching to deliver a superb performance for True Blue Ford fans. Naturally, the three-vehicle team is also determined to give the rest of the field a run for its money.

Representing round two of the Absa Off Road Championship, the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 takes place in the Pietermaritzburg area on April 23 and 24.

As was the case at the Darling 400, which yielded two podium positions for Team Ford Racing, Neil Woolridge will once again join forces with Kenny Skjoldhammer in the Class T Ford Ranger. Manfred Schröder and Jack Peckham, who debuted their brand new Class D Ranger at the Darling race, will be keen to perform well in class, while all eyes will be on the Class E Ford development team of Baphumze (Bappie) Rubuluza and Kulile Vakalisa. They achieved a remarkable podium position in their first- ever off-road race – and the question on everyone’s lips is: can they do it again?

According to team manager, Neil Woolridge, all the vehicles in the Nissan Sugarbelt 400 have been prepared to the highest Ford quality standards. “The cars are Built Ford Tough, developed to withstand rough terrain – and we are eager to tackle the Sugarbelt,” he says.

After their podium position race finish in Darling last month, Woolridge and Skjoldhammer are looking forward to another clean run. “This race should be a lot tougher than Darling. It’s demanding and tiring for the driver, and hard on the vehicle – but we are confident that our Ford Ranger is up to the challenge,” says Woolridge.

Thankfully for Woolridge and Skjoldhammer, their Ranger didn’t suffer any damage during the Darling race. “We haven’t had to do much from a technical point of view to the vehicle prior to the race,” comments Woolridge. “All that it required was a really good clean – the sand and dust were terrible at the Darling race. In addition, we may tweak the suspension on the Ranger… but nothing too drastic.”

Woolridge maintains that it’s quite reasonable to expect yet another podium position for the Class T Ranger. “We did it in Darling and that means that we can do it again at Sugarbelt. If anything, we have the upper hand because the Sugarbelt suits our vehicle far better. It’s tight, twisty and tough – and our Ford Ranger is right at home under those circumstances.”

According to Woolridge, this is a well-organised event, and all members of Team Ford Racing are looking forward the race.

The Class D 4.0 -litre Ford Ranger was developed in only two months, and – as already mentioned - ran its debut race in Darling. Schröder and Peckham revel in the Sugarbelt – they have won this race for the last two years – and, naturally, they are hoping for a repeat performance. “Darling was a test run for the 4.0 -litre Ranger and we do need more development,” says Schröder. “But we have a strong motor and our advanced suspension will make the tight turns of this race easy to handle.”

This time around, the Class D team are eyeing a podium position. “Our new Ranger is incredible - its motor is really strong and hard-working. Our Ranger V6 has great potential – and we are looking to show that potential at this race,” says Schröder.

After achieving their sought-after podium position in their debut race, Ford’s development team, Baphumze (Bappie) Rubuluza and Kulile Vakalisa are sticking to their previous strategy. “It’s important for us to finish, as it was last time,” says Rubuluza. “But this time round we’re going to experiment with pace. Kulile and I are both feeling more confident, especially after our successful first run. We are preparing ourselves physically and mentally, because we believe that this course is going to be more technical. And hey, we can’t wait to go racing!”

Spectators will be able to view the racing at numerous spots in and around Eston.

Original article from Car