The last event, the Waterberg 400, of the 2023 South African Rally Raid series took place over the weekend of November 11 and Gareth Wooldridge and navigator Boyd Dreyer were crowned the champions, also taking the premier Class FIA T1+ title to boot.
Lance Woolridge and Kenny Gilbert from the Neil Woolridge Motorsport team secured second place in the race.
Dreyer had already won the Production Vehicle navigators title. Gareth only needed to finish fourth or better to win the overall championship and the Class T1+ titles.
The teams faced two long, extremely hot and dusty 178km race loops for Saturday’s main race. Gareth and Dreyer moved into second place at the halfway point, just 50 seconds behind their rivals. Lance and Gilbert, despite an early puncture, trailed in third.
Team principal, Neil Woolridge and co-driver Kenny Skjoldhammer’s victory in the South African Production Vehicle championship was historic, as a father and son had never won before. It builds on the two consecutive Class T championships that Lance and co-driver Ward Huxtable won in 2018 and 2019.
The team won the Manufacturers Award for the Waterberg 400, ending a tough racing season on a high note.
“It’s an unbelievable result,” Neil said. “We’ve been working incredibly hard throughout the year to get to this point, and finally it’s happened. Gareth and Boyd did a fantastic job today and throughout this season, and they are so deserving of the overall and class T1+ championship titles.
“To knock the world champions off their pedestal is an amazing result. Wrapping the season with a one-two and winning the overall and T1+ championships is a very proud achievement for all of us, and also for Ford South Africa in its Centenary year,” he said.
Gareth and Dreyer will compete at the 2024 Dakar Rally in the NWM M-Sport T1+ Ranger – now as the 2023 South African Rally-Raid Championship winners.
“It feels fantastic and good to add to the CV, and hopefully it can pave the way for the future,” Gareth said. “We’ve worked hard and the extra hours everyone has put in this year are amazing, so I’m happy to bring the titles home for all of them.”
Dreyer said, “I’m happy and relieved. We’ve had a long year and I’m so happy that we are finally on top. Thank you to Gareth, the whole NWM team, as well as Ford and Castrol.”
It was the second runner-up finish for Lance and Kenny during their first season together. “The Waterberg was a very technical race in the style of the old off-road races we used to do, and it was a superb event,” Lance said. “Kenny did a phenomenal job, and it’s a significant result for us. For the team to get a one-two and Gareth and Boyd winning the overall and T1+ championships, I don’t think we could be happier.”