Atlas Copco Ford Racing claimed gold by winning the Production Vehicle category on the final round of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship held on Saturday near Westonaria in Gauteng. Gary Bertholdt and co-driver Siegfried Rousseau (T4) enjoyed a clean run from third place in qualifying, and completed the two 152 km loops without incident to claim the overall Production Vehicle and Class T victories in their Atlas Copco Ford Ranger. They crossed the finish line a comfortable 2 min 59 sec ahead of Jason Venter/Vince Allemann (Toyota).
The Ford Rangers enjoyed a strong showing in Gauteng’s gold mining belt, with team-mates Chris Visser and Japie Badenhorst (T2) leading the charge for much of the race. The opposite was true of their Toyota rivals who suffered a series of mishaps in the challenging and widely varying conditions which included fast open sections, rough rocky terrain and treacherous mud. During the first 152 km loop the Fords charged ahead and were never challenged for the Production Vehicle lead. Both Rangers entered the mandatory 15-minute pit stop at the front of the field, and set off on the second loop confident of a top two result.
Ultimately it was not to be, as the Visser/Badenhorst Ranger picked up an electrical glitch approximately 30 km from the end while in the lead. Although they managed to get the vehicle going, it came to a halt just 5 km from the finish line and refused to start again. It was a tragic blow to an otherwise perfect race for the winners of the previous round, the Vryburg 450.
However the Ford Racing team took solace in the fact that they ended the season with an impressive three wins from seven events. They also notched up two second places and a third this year.