Ford and Toyota win in the Free State

The Harrismith 400, Round 5 of the 2018 South African Cross-Country Series (SACCS), saw Toyotas as the first three cars across the line , but it was Ford that claimed the victory in the hotly contested Class T category.

Harrismith 400-5131

Victory in Harrismith went to former champion Chris Visser, with Philip Herselman beside him in the Atlas Copco-supported Toyota Hilux. It was a first overall victory for Visser/Herselman since joining the fray in Class FIA of the SACCS this year, and the burly farmer was ecstatic with his win.
“It has been a long time coming, and we’ve gotten close on a number of occasions,” said Visser from the Designated Service Park (DSP) at the Eeram Farmer’s Complex, to the west of the Freestate town of Harrismith. “But today everything came together. The Hilux ran like clockwork, Philip was an ace on the notes, and I really gelled well with the terrain.”

Visser/Herselman brought their Toyota Hilux home just 01:34 ahead of Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Henk Lategan and Barry White, who were fresh from their maiden win at last month’s Atlas Copco 400 in Bronkhorstspruit. The factory crew had won the qualifying race for the Harrismith 400 on the Friday before the main event, but found the going tough during the remainder of the race.

“Opening the route was really difficult, though I think we might have been just a touch too cautious on the opening loop,” said Lategan after finishing the race. “We tried to push a bit harder during the second loop, but Chris drove like a man possessed, and in the end, we just couldn’t catch him.”

Third place, 04:54 behind Lategan/White, came the 4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux of Jason Venter, with Jaco van Aardt beside him. The pair had last raced at the Toyota Kalahari Botswana 1,000 Desert Race in June, but it was a clear return to form for the former Class T champions.

“It was a good race for us,” said Venter after the event. “We came out here with the sole aim of having some fun, and maybe the relaxed attitude helped us go faster. Whatever the case may be, we had a great race and we’re very pleased to be on the overall podium.”

Harrismith 400-5200

Things didn’t go quite as smoothly for Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy, in the factory Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Hilux. Their weekend started with a broken tie rod during the qualifying race, forcing the pair to drop way down the order for the main race.

Harrismith 400-5617

With Lategan/White finishing second, and De Villiers/Murphy not scoring points in Harrismith, the Production Championship is wide open. While the official standings won’t be updated until the results from the Harrismith 400 become official, it is likely that only ten points will separate De Villiers, at the top of the Production Category standings, from teammate Lategan in second place.

Class S saw championship hopefuls, Jannie Visser and son Chris, retire near the end of the race, handing the class championship to David Huddy and Gerhardt Schutte (Nissan Navara) in the process. The Vissers were 15 points behind Huddy/Schutte going into the penultimate round, but a DNF means that they are now out of contention, making Huddy and Schutte the new Class S champions.

The Free State proved a happy hunting ground for the Ford Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) team for the second year in a row as Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer scored their second consecutive Harrismith 400 Class T victory at the weekend.


Having earned their first career win at this event last year, it was once again a stellar performance from the young pair in the NWM-built and run Ford Ranger, catapulting them from fourth to third place in the South African Cross Country Series (SACCS).

Team-mates and current Class T championship leaders, Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable were not quite as fortunate in the second NWM Ford Ranger but still managed a solid fourth place.

With their title rivals, Johan and Werner Horn (Toyota), encountering troubles and only managing sixth, it gives the Ford crew a bit more breathing space with their lead extended from four to nine points – thus setting the scene for yet another thrilling two-horse race for championship glory at the season finale.


With this year’s Harrismith 400 featuring an almost entirely new route, the primary objective for the Ford NWM team was to score maximum points without taking any risks that could sideline them in the fierce battle for the 2018 Class T Production Vehicle title.

As the SACCS Class T leaders, Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable were the fastest of the NWM Ford Rangers on Friday’s extremely windy and dusty sprint-style 39km qualifying session. They set the third-fastest time, which gave them an ideal starting position for Saturday’s main race without having to sweep the road – and, crucially, they were two places ahead of the Horn brothers.

Making the most of their local knowledge, Harrismith residents Jacques van Tonder and Sammy Redelinghuys caused a stir by powering their NWM-built privateer Ranger to the fastest qualifying time, 40 seconds ahead of Woolridge/Huxtable and 13 seconds quicker than second-placed Richard Leeke/Danie Stassen (BMW).

Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer were fourth quickest, just 7 sec behind their team-mates, perfectly placed to pounce as the race progressed.


This year’s new Harrismith 400 route featured a challenging mix of fast farm tracks and gravel roads, keeping the crews on their toes throughout the two 177 km loops.

Lance and Ward started off well and were pushing hard, but despite the extremely dry and dusty conditions, they quite unexpectedly found themselves stuck in a mud hole located in a small forest section, just 65 km into the race. Several other crews were nearly caught out by the same hazard, which cost the Ford team around two minutes to extricate themselves – thus undoing their early charge, resulting in them holding station in fourth at the end of loop one.

Gareth and Boyd were setting a blistering pace and fortunately had no major issues on the first loop, other than one of the right front shock absorbers breaking towards the end of the opening stint, which only hampered them on the big bumps. They came into the pits leading Class T by more than two minutes over Leeke/Stassen in second place, and almost three minutes ahead of Van Tonder/Redelinghuys who had dropped back to third.


With the damaged shock absorber replaced, Gareth and Boyd had a perfect run through the second loop and claimed their second Harrismith 400 win in a row with a total race time of 4 hours 35 min 10 sec – more than 6 minutes ahead of Leeke/Stassen and a further 1 min 21 sec clear of third-placed Van Tonder/Redelinghuys.

As the Ford NWM team’s third win of the 2018 season, the maximum haul of 30 points powered the young duo into third place in the championship, ahead of Gary Bertholdt and Geoff Minnnitt (Toyota) who crossed the line fifth.
For Lance and Ward, their second loop was also a fraught affair. They set blistering times on the first part of the stage and were within 20 seconds of second-placed Leeke/Stassen with 80km to go, only to lose the front brakes on their Ranger. A cautious drive to the finish saw them claim a hard-fought fourth place.

With rivals Johan and Werner Horn also experiencing a difficult weekend and finishing sixth, Lance and Ward are now nine points ahead of the Toyota crew going into the last race, scheduled for 2-3 November in Westonaria, Gauteng.


Thanks to three Rangers finishing in the top four places, Ford won the coveted Manufacturers Award for the second time this year, to go along with the season-opener in Dullstroom.

The final race of the 2018 SACCS season will take place on 2 and 3 November in Glenharvie, Westonaria, Gauteng. The event was originally planned for Sun City, but had to be relocated due to landowner authorisation not being granted for the race route.



Ford EcoSport upgraded

The updated Ford EcoSport arrives on the local market hot on the heels of the new Figo and amid changes at the company that see former marketing boss, Neale Hill taking over as managing director.

In that sense, exciting times for the company and sorely needed.

Borrowing from the design styling of the new Kuga, launched late last year, the EcoSport also receives a completely new interior look and design.


“Ford has sold more than 45 000 EcoSport models in South Africa since it was launched in 2013 and it has been a major player in its segment ever since thanks to its great looks, impressive space and versatility, superb all-round performance and exceptional value for money,” says Tracey Delate, General Manager, Marketing at Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa.

“The new Ford EcoSport offers customers even more style, comfort, capability and choice – blending rugged SUV functionality with unrivalled city car practicality.”

A large trapezoidal grille and angular headlights, incorporating LED daytime running lights on the Trend and range-topping Titanium models, dominate the revised front-end design.

I suppose if the original Renault Megane’s design was influenced by a kid wearing his cap backwards, there is no fault in taking the straps of rucksack and turning that into the inspiration for the front fog light housings and three-quarter profile of the EcoSport.

At the rear, the bumper and tail light designs also are revised to deliver a cleaner, more sculpted appearance. New alloy wheel designs offered in Gunmetal grey five-spoke 16-inch versions on the Trend series, or 17-inch rims on the Titanium. The entry-level Ambiente model is fitted with 16-inch steel rims with wheel covers.

Inside, new seat designs offer greater front and rear occupant comfort with full leather on the Titanium derivatives. The interior features a host of smart stowage solutions, including a new height adjustable boot floor that can be raised to provide concealed storage, or lowered to increase luggage capacity to 334 litres.


A new centre console features a built-in folding, sliding armrest (Titanium models) with an integrated storage compartment that is ideal for tablet computers or snacks. Buyers will also enjoy the practicality of under-seat storage underneath the passenger seat (Titanium models).

Ford’s SYNC3 communications and entertainment system is fitted as standard on the Trend and Titanium models, and incorporates Bluetooth and Voice Control. SYNC3 is supported by the new floating colour touchscreen, which can be operated with pinch and swipe gestures.

A 6.5-inch screen is fitted on the Trend models, while the Titanium features an 8-inch version as well as embedded turn-by-turn navigation.

EcoSport for the first time provides Cruise Control with Adjustable Speed Limiter on the Titanium derivative that helps drivers keep within speed limits, while rear parking sensors are provided on all models to make parking manoeuvres more efficient and safer.

Active driving safety has been stepped up across the range with standard fitment of Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with Traction Control (TC), as well as Roll Stability Control (RSC) in the EcoBoost range, which adjusts engine torque and braking to help drivers maintain control. Additionally, the 1.0 EcoBoost-powered models gain Hill Launch Assist (HLA) that makes pulling off on steep inclines easier, along with Ford’s Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS).

On the top-spec EcoSport Titanium, there are automatic headlights and rain-sensing wipers.

Six air bags are fitted as standard on the EcoSport Ambiente, comprising dual front, side and curtain air bags, while the Trend and Titanium models are additionally equipped with a driver’s knee air bag. The side air bags have been redesigned to provide extra thorax protection and direct the occupant away from an impact and new curtain air bags provide increased side-impact coverage.

Ford’s 1,0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine takes centre stage in the revised line-up, exclusively powering the Trend and Titanium models.

It produces 92 kW of power matched to a peak torque output of 170 Nm all the way from 1 400 r/min to 4 500 r/min.

Trend and Titanium customers have the choice between a six-speed manual gearbox or the latest-generation six-speed automatic that recently made its debut on the all-new Ford Fiesta.

The 1,5-litre TDCi turbo-diesel engine remains part of the line-up, offered in Ambiente trim, linked to a five-speed manual gearbox. It delivers 74 kW and a substantial 205 Nm of torque between 1 750 r/min and 3 250 r/min.

Prices (incl. Vat and CO2 emission tax):
EcoSport 1.5 TDCi Ambiente 5MT R 264 500
EcoSport 1.0 EcoBoost Trend 6MT R 287 500
EcoSport 1.0 EcoBoost Trend 6AT R 300 700
EcoSport 1.0 EcoBoost Titanium 6MT R 327 800
EcoSport 1.0 EcoBoost Titanium 6AT R 339 900

All models come standard with Ford Protect, comprising a 4-year/120 000 km comprehensive warranty, 3-year/unlimited distance roadside assistance and 5-year/unlimited km corrosion warranty. A 4-year/60 000 km service plan is included, with 15 000 km service intervals.


Ford revamps the Figo

‘Cool’ might well be an adjective used to describe the updated Ford Figo – and apt expression as the name Figo is a colloquial Italian expression meaning . . .well, ‘cool’.

The Ford Figo was unveiled in Delhi in September 2009 based on the same small car platform used for the Ford Fiesta and resembled the mark 5 Fiesta but with revised front and rear treatments.

It was launched to the Indian market in March 2010 and released in South Africa in January 2013.

Now, Ford Motor Company is lifting its game in the compact car segment with an updated Ford Figo that gains a more sophisticated, upmarket appearance and improved specification levels.


“The Figo is an important model for Ford in South Africa, as it is represents the entry point for customers into the Ford brand,” says Tracey Delate, General Manager, Marketing at Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa.

“The latest model brings a fresh new look and equipment upgrades to the range, and we have rationalised the line-up to make it a more competitive and compelling choice in a segment where value for money and affordability are the primary purchase considerations.”

Significantly, in an economically constrained market, the car comes with a revised standard Service Plan that is upped to 4-years/60 000 km covering the vehicle for up to four services over a period of four years.

“With its great new styling, impressive levels of comfort and safety features, exceptional value and the segment-defining new Service Plan as standard, we expect the new Figo to be a strong contender in the important sub-B segment.”

At the front is an entirely new bumper design that houses a restyled honeycomb grille, reflecting the latest Ford design language. This is complemented by detailing for the front fog lamp surrounds, framed by accents that link the lower bezel to the upper section of the bumper.


There are chrome inserts in the headlamps and new dual-tone multi-spoke 14-inch alloy wheels for the Trend models and updated wheel caps for the Ambiente versions, which have 14-inch steel rims.

At the rear, the new Figo gets subtle changes to the tail light clusters, along with an all-new rear bumper design that gives the car a notably more contemporary character.


The interior has been updated with a cleaner design for the centre console and upper instrument panel that enhances ease of use.

The Ambiente is the entry-level model, and is available as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback. It is equipped with electrically operated front windows with one-touch operation on the driver’s side, a factory-fitted immobiliser, electric power-assisted steering, tilt adjustment for the steering column and headlight level adjustment.

A built-in Ford Audio unit is standard with an integrated display and four speakers, offering Bluetooth connectivity, a USB slot, as well as Ford’s Device Dock in the upper section of the centre console for connecting and powering smart phone devices.

Driver and passenger air bags are standard, with anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD).

Additional features available on the Trend models, available in sedan or hatchback, extend to remote central locking, a belt minder for driver and front passenger, power rear windows with child lock, rear window defroster, perimeter anti-theft alarm, and a gear-shift indicator for manual models.


One of the new features of the Figo range is the 1,5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine that powers the entire line-up. This unit uses an aluminium engine block and cylinder head for reduced weight.

It also relies on twin independent variable camshaft timing (TiVCT) for the four-valves-per-cylinder engine to deliver improved low-down torque as well as top-end power. The fitment of a dual-stage variable oil pump further enhances efficiency, while reducing fuel consumption and emissions.

The 1.5 TiVCT engine is credited with a maximum power output of 88 kW and peak torque of 150 Nm and drives through a five-speed manual gearbox or a new high-tech six-speed automatic gearbox exclusively available on the five-door Trend hatch.

As a replacement for the previous PowerShift transmission, the six-speed version is a conventional torque converter automatic.


Figo 1.5 TiVCT Ambiente Hatch 5MT                      R181 300

Figo 1.5 TiVCT Trend Hatch 5MT                             R190 600

Figo 1.5 TiVCT Trend Hatch 6AT                              R205 700

Figo 1.5 TiVCT Ambiente Sedan 5MT                        R187 200

Figo 1.5 TiVCT Trend Sedan 5MT                            R196 000

All models come standard with Ford Protect, comprising a 4-year/120 000 km comprehensive warranty, 3-year/unlimited distance roadside assistance and five-year/unlimited km corrosion warranty. A 4-year/60 000 km service plan is included, with 15 000 km service intervals.



The king is crowned

The 2018 Jaguar Simola Hillclimb delivered an enthralling mix of thrills and excitement, with some stunning new records being set on the Simola Hill – both amongst the competitors’ times, as well as the number of spectators attending the three-day event.

More than 17 000 people attended the ninth edition of the Hillclimb, held in Knysna from 4 to 6 May, around 2 000 more than last year’s record-breaking attendance – and they were treated to the very best motorsport and the fiercest competition South Africa has to offer.

When the action drew to a close today, all-new King of the Hill records had been established in each of the three categories, but the times between many of the top contenders were closer than ever, which kept the fans on their toes right to the end of the nail-biting programme.

Apart from the battle being waged between the competitors, the throngs of fans had plenty of other attractions – most notably the daring antics of Jaguar’s world-renowned stunt driver and multiple record-holder Terry Grant. The British ace entertained the crowds by not just driving up the 1.9 km Simola Hill in the Jaguar F-PACE, but doing so the whole way on two wheels! He had several celebrities, including singer Bobby van Jaarsveld and Springbok rugby captain Eben Etzebeth, as passengers along on the hair-raising rides for a remarkable once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Single Seaters and Sportscars

Andre Bezuidenhout was the undisputed King of the Hill at the 2017 edition of the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb in his 1989 Dallara F189 Formula 1 car, and his aim for the 2018 event was to go even quicker in the recently acquired Gould GR55 – a specialist Hillclimb single-seater built in the UK with much-improved aerodynamics and a paddle-shift transmission.

Even though he had limited seat time in the Gould leading up to the Hillclimb, he was astonishingly quick throughout the weekend, and wrapped up the qualifying sessions with a best time of 36.006 seconds – over 1.1 sec quicker than his best time last year in the Dallara.

Signalling his clear intent, Bezuidenhout established a new official Hillclimb record during the one-lap Class Finals with an impressive time of 36.428 seconds. If that wasn’t remarkable enough, he absolutely destroyed the current lap record – and the opposition – with an all-new time of 35.528 seconds in the King of the Hill Top 10 Shootout. That translates to an average speed of 192.52 km/h, from a standing start!

“I felt confident throughout the weekend that a 35-second time was possible but was slightly worried when the temperature dropped in the late afternoon for the final run,” Bezuidenhout said. “The Gould is an amazing car, and the team I had supporting me was superb.

“It has been an amazing weekend, and this is an exceptional event. I can’t think of another motorsport event where so many people stay right to the end and are so enthusiastic. I have to say well done to the organisers and sponsors.”

Robert Wolk was another prominent presence throughout the two days of racing, competing this time in a Ferrari V8-powered A1 GP car. He put in a solid effort to both learn the new car and give it his all, and finished second with a best time of 37.691 seconds during the Top 10 Shootout.

Another talking point throughout the contest was Stuart White, at just 16 years old, who became a strong contender for a podium slot too, but his hopes were dashed when his Formula Renault V6 failed on his Top 10 run, and he had to take solace in a Class Final time of 40.497 seconds. So, the final podium slot went to Garth de Villiers, driving a Formula VW, with a time of 42.013 seconds.

Modified Saloon Cars

As predicted, the large field that made up the Modified Saloon Car category dished up a non-stop menu of drama and excitement. At any point during the Hillclimb’s five practice sessions and six qualifying runs, there were no less than eight contenders vying for this year’s Modified Saloon Car King of the Hill title.

Among the four-wheel drive challengers, reigning champion Wilhelm Baard, in the leading Nissan GT-R, had his sights set on a third Hillclimb title, going head-to-head against fellow GT-R rivals Edrich Zwiers, Quinsley Sale, Martin van Zummeren, Darron Gudmanz and Kyle Mitchell.

Anton Cronje led the Japanese assault with his wild Subaru Impreza WRX STi, while Franco di Matteo brought sheer muscle to the gunfight – courtesy of his Jaguar V8 Supercar racer.

Heading into the Class Final, Dawie Joubert held the qualifying advantage, having dipped under the 40-second barrier with a time of 39.984 seconds, with Baard breathing down his neck a mere hundredth of a second adrift and the next three rivals, comprising Charl Joubert, Di Matteo and Van Zummeren, all under 41 seconds.

However, Baard was having a torrid weekend, struggling with the braking balance of the car, already having destroyed the GT-R’s radical front splitter, and had a wild spin at the top of the Simola Hill on Saturday. Today, he had to contend with a fire breaking out in the GT-R, leading to more emergency repairs.

Nevertheless, he managed to pull a blinder of a run out the hat in the Class Final, blasting through the timing beam in 39.533 seconds to set a new record for the class. In the Top 10 Shootout, run from slowest to fastest, it was anyone’s guess who would take the all-or-nothing single shot at glory.

In the mid-pack it was Cronje that laid down the gauntlet with a time of 40.973 seconds, which was immediately beaten by Van Zummeren and Di Matteo. Charl Joubert was up next and he notched up an impressive 39.519 second run.

Baard gave it everything on his final attempt, sliding the GT-R through the Esses at the top of the course, and ripping off his front splitter for the second time in two days when he drifted slightly wide and clipped a tyre. It only emerged later, at the podium, that the boost pipe was pulled off at the same time, and he completed the run with no turbocharger!

It was a nail-biting affair as the track was cleared of debris, and Dawie Joubert completed the final run of the three-day Jaguar Simola Hillclimb event, eventually ending on 40.025 seconds to claim third behind his brother, with the King of the Hill title ultimately remaining in the hands of an elated Baard who set a new record time of 39.463 seconds.

“We had so many dramas in this event, and with the balance issues with the brakes I didn’t have much confidence in the car yesterday,” he said. “The team worked through the night to sort out the problem, and the car was much better today, which allowed us to focus on improving our times.

“Then there was the small issue of the car catching fire this morning after one of the runs when the dipstick came out the engine, and we had to replace a wiring harness in just half an hour,” he added. “We even had a problem in the Class Final with the car not changing down a gear in turn two, but ironically when we checked the data it was actually faster through the corner – so I used this technique to great effect for the Top 10 Shootout.

“I was clearly a bit too quick in the Esses, and despite the damage to the splitter and no boost in the final part of the course, somehow I managed to set the quickest time, which was quite astonishing,” Baard recalled. “Just about everything seemed to go wrong this weekend, but eventually it all clicked together right at the end. The team and I are exhausted but very happy.”

Road-going Saloon Cars and Supercars

Reghard Roets earned his second King of the Hill title in a row with another exceptional performance in the mighty street-legal Nissan GT-R, having set the pace throughout the weekend. As the lone GT-R in the category, he raised the bar even further after he beat his current Hillclimb record for standard road cars by 0.135 sec, bettering last year’s result during the Class Finals with a time of 44.631 seconds.

The former Production Car racer had actually gone even quicker in the qualifying sessions, with a time of 44.588 seconds, in an effort to stave off the challenge from a trio of McLaren 570S entries, and the ever-present threat of Dawie Olivier in the roaring Jaguar F-TYPE SVR.

The Top 10 Shootout for the King of the Hill title became a thrilling three-way tussle at the top, with Olivier blasting his way to his best time of the weekend of 44.967 seconds, a time that Izak Spies wasn’t able to beat in his McLaren after recording a run of 45.784 seconds.

Roets was the last of the contenders and cemented his 2018 King of the Hill title with a winning time of 44.892 seconds. “I was a bit nervous going into the final run, but I did just enough to get the win in the bag, so I’m ecstatic,” he said.

This gave the Jaguar driver second place on the final podium with Spies taking the third-placed slot ahead of Ernst du Preez (McLaren), Barry Ingle (Roush Ford Mustang) and Jacques Wheeler in the third McLaren.

A noteworthy mention has to go to multiple karting and rally champion Mark Cronje who delighted the crowds with his outstanding performance in the large and luxurious Jaguar XJR 575, completing the Top 10 dash in a very respectable time of 48.485 seconds.

Spirit of Dave Charlton Award

Few names are better known in South African motorsport circles than Willie Hepburn – a man that has become synonymous with racing thundering V8 machines over the years in the WesBank V8 series.

He has been a regular and popular competitor at the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb in his iconic 7.0-litre Chevrolet V8-powered Opel Record – a car that he still drives and maintains at an age of 76.

For his dedication to the sport and professionalism, Hepburn earned the Spirit of Dave Charlton floating trophy for the 2018 King of the Hill, which recognises the person that reflects South African race legend Dave Charlton’s spirit of impeccable attention to detail, meticulous preparation and commendable performance.

Report: Colin Mileman

Changes for Simola Hillclimb

Sporting director for the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb, Geoff Goddard, has made several changes to the event this year (May 3 – 6) with classes A1, A2 and A5 being dropped because of a lack of suitable entries.

“Our objective is to refresh the line-up for the Hillclimb each year to provide an exceptional experience for the spectators and competitors, and this is clearly evident in the superb range of exotics and performance cars that will be taking to the start line in the Road Car and Supercar category,” says Goddard.

The classes catering for standard production, road-legal vehicles have been narrowed and now, starting off with Class A3 for six-cylinder turbo-charged or supercharged two-wheel drive vehicles, a formidable benchmark has been established with the rapid Noble M400 of Feroz Ebrahim, along with the highly-rated 375 kW Alfa Romeo Guilia QV, driven by Piet Potgieter.

As the reigning Road Car and Supercar King of the Hill champion and current record-holder with a time of 43.955 seconds, Reghard Roets will be back to eagerly defend his title in the only Nissan GT-R competing this year in Class A4.

“I really enjoyed my first outing at the Jaguar Simola Hillclimb last year, and it was fantastic to win the King of the Hill title,” Roets says. “It’s an amazing event that is extremely competitive, and it’s certainly no walk in the park as there are a lot of serious cars and drivers out there.

“What the Hillclimb lacks in distance it certainly makes up for in intensity, and blasting through the 1,9 km course in just 43 seconds takes serious focus and commitment. The GT-R works exceptionally well in this environment, and hopefully we can score back-to-back victories for the team,” he added.

Missing from the contest this year will be Des Gutzeit in his mighty Nissan GTR – the owner of Dezzi Raceway in KwaZulu Natal forced to forego a chance to crown he once held as he is recovering from back surgery.

With Class A5 falling away, next up are the normally aspirated V8-powered machines in A6, including a Ferrari 458 driven by Garth Mackintosh.

Class A7 will be the biggest and most fiercely contested category, with an almighty battle set to ensue between two of the biggest names in American V8 muscle. Ford Performance Centre’s supercharged Roush Ford Mustang will be driven by the experienced circuit racer Barry Ingle.

He will be going head-to-head against rival Shelby South Africa with its Mustang Super Snake in the hands of Paige Lindenberg.

Once again, the latest offering from BMW’s M division will be making its appearance with Rob Gearing behind the wheel of the recently launched all-wheel drive M5.

The British manufacturers will be well represented too, with Dawie Olivier powering the mighty 5,0-litre supercharged V8 F-TYPE SVR Coupé up the Simola Hill. Joining him in the Jaguar camp is decorated SA racer Mark Cronje, in a Jaguar XJR 575.

Bringing variety to the British contingent is Clive Geldenhuys, whose challenge comes in the form of the twin-turbo 6.0-litre W12-engined Bentley Continental GT.

The supercar brigade in A7 features no less than three lightweight and very quick McLaren 570S entries, driven by Ernst du Preez, Izak Spies and Jacques Wheeler.

The BMW i8 leads the charge for hybrid technologies, with Gordon Nicholson back again to mix it up with the conventionally-powered machines.

This sets the scene for an exciting two days of action to determine who will take the Road Car and Supercar crown in 2018!


Ford expands engine plant

Capacity at the Ford Motor Company of South Africa (FMCSA) engine plant at Struandale, Port Elizabeth is being boosted to provide a new assembly line for the diesel engine that will power the Ford Ranger Raptor when it is launched next year.

This forms part of a wide-ranging investment in its two South African plants, announced late last year.

“We are delighted to confirm that, as part of the R3-billion investment announced in November 2017, we are expanding both the capability and capacity of the Struandale Engine Plant for our current and future engine programmes,” says Jacques Brent, President of Ford Middle East and Africa.

“The investment includes the installation of a sophisticated new assembly line for an all-new diesel engine program and, at the same time, we are boosting capacity for the current Duratorq TDCi engine that is used in the Ford Ranger and Everest, with new derivatives and additional European markets being introduced for the local operations.”

The new diesel engine assembly hall is located in a totally revamped 3 868 m2 section of the Struandale Engine Plant, and boasts Ford’s latest, state-of-the-art manufacturing processes.

Eight derivatives of the new engine will be assembled at the Struandale Engine Plant when production officially commences in the fourth quarter of 2018. The new assembly line has an installed capacity of 120 000 engines a year.

 The current component machining and assembly lines for the Duratorq TDCi diesel engine, which has been produced locally since 2011 for the Ford Ranger and Everest, are also being expanded.

“Our upgrades for the Duratorq TDCi program adds incremental volumes, with 22 new four-cylinder engine derivatives to be exported to European markets, including for use in front-wheel drive Ford models,” Brent states. “This introduces three significant new customers for the Struandale Engine Plant, comprising Italy, Turkey and Russia.”

Ultimately, the Struandale Engine Plant will become the home of all Duratorq TDCi engine component machining for the Ranger, Everest and Transit, along with expanded engine assembly in conjunction with current operations at Ford plants in Thailand and Argentina.

“This places our South African business in a central role within the global Ford network, and reaffirms our commitment to developing the automotive industry within the local market, and in the broader Middle East and Africa region,” Brent adds.

With the additional 2.2-litre engine derivatives officially coming on line in the fourth quarter of 2018, the Struandale Engine Plant will be assembling a total of 56 variants of the Duratorq TDCi engine.

Installed capacity for the Duratorq TDCi program is set to increase from the current 254 000 machined component sets (cylinder head, block and crankshaft) to 280 000, while assembly capacity will grow from 115 000 to 130 000 engines per annum.

To accommodate the significant production expansion for the two engine programs, a brand new warehouse was built at the Struandale Engine Plant. The new 5 418 m2 facility was designed to house all the required parts, components and tools on-site to maximise production efficiency for the two engine programs.


Trauma specialists

The massive problem of rhino poaching in Southern Africa kills hundreds of these endangered animals each year and leaves more traumatised, bloody and barely alive after the horn has been savagely hacked off.

Established in 2012 by veterinarian Dr Johan Marais, Saving the Survivors’ main focus is caring for rhinos that have fallen victim to poaching and other traumatic incidents. Fulfilling its promise of ‘creating hope from hurt’, the project has directly saved more than 250 rhinos and indirectly it has saved hundreds more, via the training of other vets through its workshops.

After around 50-million years on the planet, the entire rhino species is on the brink of extinction. The latest estimate of the global rhino population is 15 000 White, 4 500 Black, 3 500 Indian, 67 Javan and less than 50 Sumatran. South Africa is home to 80% of the world’s remaining rhino population.

“We have lost more than 1 000 rhinos a year for five consecutive years, and 7 166 in total since 2005,” says veterinarian Dr Zöe Glyphis, who works alongside Dr Marais. “It is important to remember these stats do not include rhinos that are injured and only die at a later stage with their horns intact. It also does not include the unborn calves of pregnant cows.”

She goes on to explain rhinos in captivity live far longer than rhinos in the wild. The oldest known southern White rhinos on record were a bull named Charly and a cow named Macite, which both lived to the age of 53, in a German zoo and a New Orleans nature institute respectively.

“If poaching continues at the current rate, wild rhinos in South Africa will be extinct by 2030,” says Glyphis.

“A recent publication states we will lose one-third of all land mammals to extinction by 2050. Rhinos in captivity and private reserves, however, will probably survive just fine. Which is why secure sanctuaries and intensive protection zones for these animals are so vital.”

Saving the Survivors remains neutral on the pro/anti-trade argument.

“For the simple reason that there is no easy or quick solution to curb rhino poaching,” says Glyphis. “It is a multi-factorial problem that requires a multi-factorial solution. Our focus is on saving the rhino. To educate the public on the importance of taking ownership of our heritage, and understanding why we need survivors to be part of our future.”

Whilst the treatment of rhino poaching victims dominates most of their time, Saving the Survivors has also seen a spike in elephant poaching, so Glyphis says they anticipate treating more elephant patients in the near future.

“We have seen an increase in snaring cases as well,” she continues. “This is mainly lions, wild dogs, and leopards.” With the ever-present threat of viral diseases like rabies and distemper affecting wild carnivores, Saving the Survivors dedicates time to vaccinate these animals. Other routine work includes collaring and translocations of cheetahs and wild dogs.

“Unfortunately we see the results of some of the most ruthless attacks on our precious wildlife,” says Glyphis. “But as trained professionals, we are taught to put our emotions aside and get the job done; to do what’s best for the animal.”

She says they draw strength and encouragement from the team of incredible people who make up their support structure, and it is the success stories that ultimately make the most impact on all of them.

An important part of tending so closely to these survivors is the intense research that can be done. For instance, up until recently, very little was known about how to treat a rhino with such horrific injuries. It is now apparent that these animals have a very high pain threshold, and will carry on breeding as normal, whilst recovering from their injuries.

For almost 30 years, Ford has been actively involved in conservation efforts in Southern Africa. The Ford Wildlife Foundation (FWF), which was established in 2014, is privileged to be able to assist Saving the Survivors through the sponsorship of two Ford Rangers.

The team spends a lot of time on the road, attending to injured animals in their natural habitat. It is very stressful for wild animals to be captured and moved, and the success rates of the treatment procedures decrease dramatically if they are removed from their environment.

Watch Saving the Survivors at work here: