If you call yourself an automotive photographer, as I do, and you only shoot one thing then can you really call yourself that? I do loads of events, if they're not the static park-off kind then they involve motorsports in some form or another like circuit racing, gymkhanas and drag racing, but there's a lot that I don't have access to. So when I received an invite from Castrol SA to spend the day with Ford SA and the crew from Neil Woolridge Motorsport for the final round of the SA Cross-country Championship Series, of course I made sure to attend. Not even plans to watch the Rugby World Cup Final would get in my way, this was another rare chance to shoot OFF ROAD STUFF! Luckily these racers and all the sponsors are patriotic AF and so the day was set up so that the two race route loops would have a big enough break in between for us all to be seated in a huge marquee to watch the rugger live. How could it then not be one of the coolest day at the office for 2019?
The NWM Ford Rangers are built at their facility in Pietermaritzburg and are the current SACCS Class T Production Vehicle Champions. They run crate Coyote engines, the same 5.0 V8 found in the Mustang, mated to a Sadev 6-speed sequential transmission with permanent all-wheel drive running off a Motec management system. You're looking at 260kW and 560Nm, and in this composite body that makes for 0-100km/h in 7.1-seconds with a top speed of 185km/h . NWM is contracted to Ford South Africa to compete in the South African Cross Country Championship, one of the toughest and most competitive national championships in the world - and awesome to shoot!
After meeting up at the Castrol offices at the crack of dawn, a bunch of us were shuttled to the race headquarters in a fleet of Ranger Raptors, and the white one I was in was also going to chauffeur me to various points along the race loops to watch the action, but of course I was only going to be seeing the action through a viewfinder. There were a few spots that were a little dodgy (that I put myself in) but I know how hard metal hits so I made sure I was outta harm's way, mostly. As we arrived at the first spot I waited for the number 34 Ranger of Lance Woolridge and snapped my first pic - not bad upon review. So I was in the right spot and started taking more pics, buuuuut my 70-200mm lens upped and died on me which meant the rest of the day I'd be using a 24-70mm lens. It's a fast, crisp lens but there's not much reach, so I had to get close to the action to get decent shots. Yes!
After checking out the viewing spots for the 1st loop we headed back to the main camp and pits for a bit of a chow (buffet in the veld is ALWAYS cool) and then to watch the Springboks absolutely thrash the Poms. After a few pints and some celebrations the racing kicked off again and we were herded back to the Raptors for the next chase session. Again, so much fun, but it's much cooler when you have a Raptor and a driver helping out. Everyone who joined was wearing team shirts and caps, it was brilliant to see them supporting, and it had to have been noticed by the drivers. In around two hours (that felt like max 30 mins) the race was done and we headed back to the pits. There was an hour until prize giving and the race team took us back to a section of the track for some ride-along action. I was the only one who didn't go for a drive but I've been in similar before and you can't take photos if you're a strapped in passenger - and I wanted photos! I'm happy with the results, and of course, the memories behind the images.
After the suicide rides, we kicked back to the main pits to watch the prize giving. The teams we were there with rocked Parys, and the preceding year too. resulting in class podiums. Ranger T34 was piloted by Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable and they competed in Class T. For this 2019 season, they finished the season in number one position making the duo the 2019 Class T Champions in the Production Vehicle Category, again. Ranger T20 was piloted by Marcos Baumgart and Kleber Cincea who hail from Brazil, and their 2019 season was most definitely one to write home about with a Class T victory at this final event. Woolridge and Huxtable also took 2nd place overall in the Production Vehicle Championship, beating some of the biggest names in the sport competing in the faster FIA category too. Added to that, Ford also received the Manufacturers Award for the third time. Being there to see the Boks kick ass and also the success of the Ford team was just brilliant - the best Rugby World Cup Final day ever. You can find out all the proper class information and results over on the SACCS website.
A huge thanks to Castrol, Ford SA and the NVM race team for an absolutely brilliant day out! As said, I took some pics, you'll see a bunch below, and the rest will be popping up on Facebook at some point in the near future.