Baumgart and Cincea win in South Africa
The Castrol Ford Cross Country Team wrapped up the 2019 season in perfect fashion today at the Parys 400, the final round of the South African Cross Country Series (SACCS).
Reigning Brazilian cross country champions Marcos Baumgart and Kleber Cincea secured their first Class T victory on South African soil, with Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable crossing the line just behind their team-mates following a faultless performance from the Castrol-sponsored Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) Ford Ranger crews.
As the recently crowned double champions, Woolridge and Huxtable were rewarded with an unbroken record of podium results for the year, comprising five wins and two second-place finishes. Additionally, they claimed second place in the final standings for the overall 2019 Production Vehicle Championship - an impressive feat, considering they beat many of the biggest names in the sport competing in faster FIA-class vehicles.
Adding to the celebrations, Ford earned its third Manufacturers Award from the six events held this year - a fitting end to a dominant season for the team, which added to the already high spirits permeating every corner of the SACCS race village following the exceptional victory of the Springboks at the Rugby World Cup final in Japan.
"Weve had a fantastic year," said team principal Neil Woolridge. "Results like this dont happen very often, and having won all but one of the races this year, taking the Class T championship, earning three Manufacturers Awards and finishing second overall in the Production Vehicle Championship against the FIA cars has been very special.
"I have to extend my sincere thanks and gratitude to Ford, Castrol and all of our sponsors and partners who have made this possible. Thanks also go to our entire team. The drivers and navigators, along with all of the technicians have done a sterling job, and its just been a great year all round," he added.
For the two mighty V8 Ford crews, it was an exciting battle throughout the weekend. Fridays short 42km qualifying loop saw Woolridge and Huxtable set the fastest time in Class T, but it was a close-run affair with Baumgart and Cincea a mere 2 seconds adrift.
Although dry, windy and dusty conditions characterised the Friday session, heavy overnight rain transformed Saturdays first 170km loop into a mud bath. However, the Fords didnt put a foot wrong, and the two Rangers entered the service park with the gap narrowed by half - to just 1 second!
The second loop - after the obligatory time-out to watch the rugby - saw the Brazilians pulling out all the stops, and they crossed the line a mere 45 seconds ahead of their team-mates after 382km and 4 hours and 15 minutes of flat-out racing - thus scoring a popular first win in the SACCS.
"Im very happy to achieve my first win in South Africa, its a magical feeling," Baumgart explained. "The local championship has to be one of the best in the world, and Kleber and I have learned a lot racing here. The events are extremely well organised, the NWM team is fantastic to work with and they always deliver a perfect car. Were definitely coming to race here again next year."
For Lance Woolridge, the season could hardly have gone better for the team. "Finishing second today is a great result after taking five wins and two second-place finishes for the year. The icing on the cake is beating Giniel de Villiers in the FIA-class Toyota to take second place in the overall Production Vehicle Championship, so its a fantastic way to end the year.
"Im very happy for Marcos and Kleber, and we can see that their pace has improved all through the year. For them to win today is a superb result based on true performance, as it was hard racing all the way through with very few retirements."