Tough conditions and two brilliant debut performances marked the weekend’s 2021 season-opening Mpumalanga 400 Cross Country race around Dullstroom.
The first great debut was that of the all-new FIA Castrol Ford Ranger in the hands of Lance Woolridge and Elvéne Vonk that made history by winning the event overall. The new Ranger, powered by Ford’s 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 EcoBoost engine, proved extremely adapt to its task, with Woolridge and Vonk winning both Friday’s Qualifying sprint race and Saturday’s main event overall.
Joining them on the overall podium were the Class T winners, defending champions Johan and Werner Horn (Malalane Toyota Hilux). Third overall saw the event’s other great debut in multiple rally champion Guy Botterill, who shared a Gazoo Racing Toyota Hilux with navigator, Brett Cummings, to mount the podium after his very first off-road race.
Botterill/Cummings had to fight for their podium position as the second of the new Ford Castrol Cross Country Team Rangers in the hands of Gareth Woolridge/ Boyd Dreyer chased hard to finish third in the FIA Class and fourth overall.
Ernest Roberts/Henry Köhne brought the first of three Red-Lined Motorsport VK56 home in fifth place overall. Giniel de Villiers/Dennis Murphy (Gazoo Racing Toyota Hilux) lost a lot of time on Friday when their vehicle’s power steering broke.
Starting 25th on Saturday, they scythed through the field to finish sixth overall, just 36 seconds ahead of Mark Corbett/Rodney Burke (Century Racing CR6). They were followed by two father and son teams, Johan/Sean van Staden (Moto-Netix KEC Renault Duster) and Malcolm/Frans Kock (Neil Woolridge Motorsport Ford Ranger).
Rounding out the top ten finishers were Eben Basson/Gerhard Schutte (Red-Lined Motorsport VK56). The event took its toll on vehicles and only 15 teams managed to receive the chequered flag in the Production Vehicle Category.
In the Special Vehicle category Lance Trethewey and Adriaan Roets romped to a fine victory in their L T Earthmovers BAT Venom.
They were joined on the overall podium by two Class G Side-by-Side (SxS) teams with Dean Bradbury/Timmy Botes (Can-Am Maverick) plus brothers, Werner/Leon Mostert (Schalk Burger Can-Am Maverick) taking the respective second and third places.
The Larney brothers, Cecil and Elardus, also competing with a Can-Am Maverick SxS, made their debut at the Dullstroom event and had a fourth place overall in the Special Vehicle Category to show for it.
They were followed by two more SxS teams, Coenie Bezuidenhout/Rikus Hattingh (Moto-Netix KEC Can-Am) and Nico du Rand/JG Claassen (Can-Am Maverick SxS).
The Mpumalanga 400 will again be remembered for the field of devastation it left behind in the Special Vehicle category. The winner of this event last year, Clint Gibson/Alaric Smith (Stryker) retired four kilometres into the race on Saturday due to a broken sideshaft, while gearbox problems put a halt to the race for John Thomson/Maurice Zermatten (Mormond Zarco Challenger).