- Neil Woolridge Motorsport claims back-to-back Class T championship titles with Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable in the SA Cross Country Series (SACCS)
- Woolridge and Huxtable finish second overall in SA Production Vehicle championship, beating faster FIA-specification entries and Dakar Rally winners
- Marcos Baumgart and Kleber Cincea clinch second consecutive Brazilian Cross Country title in X Rally Team/NWM Ford Ranger - and their third title overall
- Brazilian duo also claim the South American Cross Country Championship crown
Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) has wrapped up its most successful cross country season to date, scoring consecutive victories on two continents with its locally designed and built Ford Ranger V8 entries.
The NWM Ford Rangers were the class of the field in the extremely competitive South African Cross Country Series (SACCS), as well as in the Brazilian and South American Cross Country championships - taking all three titles in 2019.
In the SACCS, the Castrol and Ford-backed NWM competitors scored wins on all but one of the seven races held this year, which handed Ford the Manufacturers Award on three occasions.
Reigning South African Class T champions Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable were dominant throughout the season, earning back-to-back titles after claiming five wins and two second-place finishes, giving them a massive haul of 238 points compared to their nearest rival on 154. Notably, along with the outstanding overall win in the second heat of the Botswana 1000 Desert Race, they also finished runners-up in the overall SACCS Production vehicle Championship.
This was an exceptional result considering they beat many of the biggest names in the sport, including Giniel de Villiers in the faster FIA-specification Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux that won the 2019 Dakar Rally. De Villiers is also a Dakar Rally winner.
For Brazilian competitors Marcos Baumgart and Kleber Cincea, the final round of the SACCS saw them scoring their first victory on South African soil, following a faultless performance and an exciting tussle with their team-mates, Woolridge and Huxtable.
With Baumgart and Cincea only competing in four of the South African events this year, their seats were filled by Gareth Woolridge and Body Dreyer who flew the NWM flag high by finishing second at the season-opening race and finishing runners-up on both heats of the Botswana Desert Race. Despite only entering three events, the younger Woolridge and co-driver Dreyer were classified fifth in the final Class T standings.
Adding to the team's superb results, Jacques van Tonder finished third in Class T in a privateer NWM-built Ford Ranger.
"We could hardly have asked for a better season in the South African Cross Country Series," says NWM team principal Neil Woolridge. "Lance and Ward had a stunning year and never put a foot wrong, and their second consecutive championship was well deserved.
"The team put a lot of work into developing and improving our Ford Ranger over the past two seasons, and this shows in our amazing results this year, giving us a big advantage over our Class T competitors and closing the gap to the FIA vehicles. For Lance and Ward to take the overall win in race two in Botswana and finish second overall in the SA Production Vehicle championship is fantastic for the team," Woolridge says.
"It was great to have Marcos and Kleber take their first SACCS win, and it's clear how their confidence and pace has improved by competing in the South African championship, which is regarded as one of the most competitive in the world. Gareth and Boyd also did us proud with second-place finishes in all three of the races they did this year."
For the 2020 season, NWM is stepping up its game and is moving up to the FIA class with a completely redesigned Ford Ranger, which will be powered by the 3.5-litre twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 engine, as used in the Ford GT supercar and F-150 Raptor.
"Having dominated Class T, it's now time to take on the big guns in the FIA class of the South African championship for full FIA IRS-specification vehicles," Woolridge states. "We are under no illusions that it's going to be a tough task taking on the might of Toyota in this category with an all-new vehicle, but we are up to the challenge and look forward to competing with the exciting new EcoBoost engine."
Double Victory in South America
It isn't only in South Africa where NWM has been the leading contender, as its X Rally Team partners in Brazil made history too. Marcos Baumgart and Kleber Cincea clinched their third Brazilian Cross Country title - and their second in a row - in the Neil Woolridge Motorsport Ford Ranger. The duo won 12 out of the 25 stages that made up the Brazilian championship to earn the title on 170 points.
X Rally Team/NWM Ford Ranger competitors locked out the entire championship podium, with Mauro Guedes and co-driver Filipe Bianchini finishing second (134), and Michel Terpins and Maykel Justo ending third (107).
If that wasn't reason enough to celebrate, Baumgart and Cincea also secured the South American Cross Country championship for 2019. "This year's competition was much higher, and everyone within the team had to work twice as hard for these wins," Baumgart says. "It is amazing to win both championships, and it leaves us highly motivated for the upcoming season."
This adds to the impressive tally of wins for the NWM Ford Ranger in the region, including a record fourth consecutive win at the 2019 Rally dos Sertões, Brazil's arduous eight-day 3 000km endurance event held at the end of August. Lucas Moraes and Kaique Bentivoglio took the victory in their X Rally Team/MEM Motorsport Ford Ranger, which is near-identical to the championship-winning Class T Rangers that won the 2018 and 2019 South African Cross Country Series.
Three-time Rally dos Sertões winners Cristian Baumgart and Beco Andreotti (NWM/X Rally Team) had another strong outing to finish second, with Marcos Baumgart and Kleber Cincea fourth and Guedes/Bianchini crossing the line in eighth place.
"To have Marcos and Kleber winning their second Brazilian cross country title in a row and take home the South American championship is a great boost for X Rally Team and NWM," Woolridge says. "It is fantastic to see how much more competitive the Brazilian championship has become since we joined forces with the X Rally Team and raised the standard for the domestic series, and I am delighted with the growing number of our Rangers that are racing there.
"Our NWM Ford Rangers continue to perform admirably in numerous other countries around the world, proving just how strong, capable and reliable this package is, while remaining affordable," Woolridge concludes.
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Neil Woolridge Motorsport is proud to be supported by the following sponsors and partners: Ford, X Rally Team, Castrol, Motorcraft, BF Goodrich Tires, Vedacit, Wurth, Bosch, HiKoki, Mastercraft, Sign Solutions, Tiger Wheel & Tyre, Ironman 4x4 and Shatterprufe.
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