Atlas Copco Ford Racing earned a resounding and well-deserved victory on the Vryburg 450, round six of the Donaldson Cross Country Championship.
On his return to the team for the first time since crashing on the Dakar Rally in January and picking up a neck injury, Chris Visser, along with co-driver Japie Badenhorst powered their Ford Ranger to a popular win on Visser’s home event.
The pair qualified in sixth place overall and 4th in Class T on Friday, having battled with a faulty intercom system from the start of the section.
But Visser showed that he still has what it takes in this fiercely competitive series by powering to the front of the Production Vehicle field by the time the crews returned to the designated service park at the end of the first loop. In the second run he overtook the Elegant Fuel Bat for the overall lead – a positioned they maintained through to the end of the race.
Unfortunately Gary Bertholdt and Siegfried were less fortunate in the second Atlas Copco Ford Racing Ranger.
In an effort to avoid a gate post during qualifying, they hit a bridge and broke the lower control arm on the rear suspension. They made it back to the pits and the vehicle was repaired for race day.
However, approximately 170 km into the first loop they struck a large rock in the road which they hadn’t seen due to the thick dust encountered at the back of the field. They limped home to avoid damaging the vehicle further but were unable to continue.
Neil Woolridge (Team Manager – Atlas Copco Ford Racing):
“After the accident at Dakar that saw Chris and Japie crashing out on day two, it was really difficult for the team to get back on their feet. A comeback like this was absolutely unbelievable and really good for the team, as much as it was good for Chris.
“When he tested the Ranger last week you could see the fire was in his belly, and to have Chris take the win on his return, and his home event, is truly a dream come true.
“The Rangers have been fantastic. If you consider they ran at Sun City without fault, one of the vehicles competed in Brazil without problems and now won the Vryburg race, this is something the team can be really proud of.
“Other than Gary’s unfortunate incident, this was a really great weekend for the team, with the kind of tension right up to the finish that we haven’t felt in a while.”
Chris Visser (T2):
“I’m almost speechless, and totally thrilled with the result. To win on my first race back, and in my home town with my family and friends, is amazing.
“I felt strong throughout the weekend. My neck was a bit stiff at times, but I’ve fully recovered from the injury am looking forward to the remainder of the season.”
Japie Badenhorst (T2):
“I enjoyed racing with Manfred, but it’s great to have my racing partner for many years back in the driver’s seat. We had a fault-free day and couldn’t have wished for a better result.”
Gary Bertholdt (T4):
“It’s a very disappointing end to the race for us, but that’s motorsport. The car was running very well and the team did a great job to get us back in the race after hitting the gate post. But it was impossible to see the rock that put us out of the race due to the extremely poor visibility while charging through from the back of the field.”