The third round of the Absa Off Road Championship in Gaborone, Botswana, has Team Ford Racing champing at the bit. All the drivers and their co-drivers are eager to return to the off-road racing circuit, after their long break from the sport (the previous event took place back in April!)

Round three of the championship, the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, takes place in Botswana on June 11 – 13.

As is customary, the team will comprise three Ford Rangers. Neil Woolridge and Kenny Skjoldhammer will run their regular Ford Ranger in Class T, Manfred Schröder and Jack Peckham will compete in Class D with the 4-litre Ford Ranger, and the Ford Development Team of Baphumze (Bappie) Rubuluza and Kulile Vakalisa will race in Class E in the 2.5-litre Turbo Diesel Ford Ranger.

According to Woolridge, who has won this event three times previously, all the Ford entrants are ready to race. “There are no major changes to any of the vehicles, aside from the renewal of expired parts,” says Woolridge.

He is upbeat about the Class T Ranger’s chances. “This race is well suited to our Class T vehicle because it requires more endurance and less speed.”

Woolridge expects his Ranger to be as reliable and tough as ever. “At the last race – the Sugarbelt - our Ford Ranger, which performed perfectly. It ran like clockwork. We are expecting more of the same at the Desert Race and we are looking forward to demonstrating the ‘Built Ford Tough’ attributes of our bakkie.”

The course has been altered slightly from previous years. While the start is fairly similar - leaving Gaborone for the service point - the rest of the race is set on a different course. From the service point the vehicles will make their way back into Gaborone. The race will continue the second leg from the city the following morning. “This new route is a little worrisome,” comments Woolridge, “but I can definitely say that I’m looking forward to sleeping in a bed instead of in the bush. And the vehicle servicing will be so much easier in a workshop.”

Class D entrants, Schröder and Peckham, are anticipating a smooth run. “We have more power than in earlier races,” comments Schröder, “but we are also carrying more weight than other competitors in the class, which may be slightly disadvantageous. But we are looking forward to the race. Last year, we encountered some really bad luck and so we didn’t finish the event. Therefore, we can only improve on our performance this time round!” he jokes.

On a more serious note, Schröder hopes to repeat his performance at Sugarbelt, when the Class D Ranger achieved a podium position. “That was one of the toughest off-road races ever – it was a real testament to the durability of our Ford that we finished. Now we need to repeat that achievement under completely different circumstances.”

After two consecutive podium finishes, the Ford Development Team of Rubuluza and Vakalisa is hoping for yet another clean run. “This is the closest I am going to get to the Dakar,” jokes Rubuluza. “At this point, everything is still new, and we are training hard. With Neil’s continued support and encouragement, we both feel confident and optimistic about this race. We have been focusing on improving our pace during the prologue to give us a good starting position.

“I believe that the Desert Race is a particularly rough race, but it is demanding, so we are concentrating on our fitness to help us overcome any difficulties. This will be our longest race to date – our last was only 400 km, and the Desert Race more than doubles that. We’re still learning about racing and our Ranger, and can only hope for the best. The fabulous thing is that we are 100% certain of one fact: our Ranger won’t let us down,” he concludes.

Original article from Car