Bowler Motors, the UK off-road performance specialist, has revealed the Land Rover Defender rally car that will compete in its own championship in 2022 – and a concept that could work extremely well here in South Africa where rally fields desperately need a boost.
The Bowler Defender Challenge is based on the Land Rover Defender 90 with a 221 kW Ingenium 2,0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. Bowler transforms it into a rally car with a full roll cage, modified underbody, raised suspension, rally-spec 18-inch wheels and column-mounted paddle shifters.
The rally Defenders are built for their own competition – the Bowler Defender Challenge series – on seven events around the UK in 2022.
Michael van der Sande, Managing Director, Jaguar Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations, says: “The development of the new Bowler Defender Challenge rally car perfectly illustrates the mutual benefits of Bowler joining Jaguar Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations.
“Our technical support married to Bowler’s legendary rally expertise has turned the extraordinarily capable Defender into a purposeful competition machine. The Bowler Defender Challenge will prove the Defender’s durability through some of the toughest conditions, while providing an exciting and accessible entry point into all-terrain motorsport for a new generation of Bowler and Land Rover customers.”
Each Bowler Defender Challenge is completely stripped back to install a full FIA-standard roll cage. The front and rear subframes are modified and given additional bracing for a new bespoke performance suspension set-up. Designed in collaboration with Fox, it increases the ride height by 25 mm. This purposeful stance is enhanced by new Bowler rally-spec 18-inch wheels.
Bowler’s engineers have provided a suite of electronic components, from fire protection and electrical cut-offs to additional lighting and vehicle control systems – all fully integrated into the existing electrical architecture. Competition race seats are installed and the gear selector is repositioned for the optimal racing position. Bowler-developed column-mounted paddle shifts complete the transition.
During the conversion Bowler modify and stiffen the Defender bodyshell to cope with the extreme conditions of off-road competition.
The standard doors are trimmed to remove the sill covering section, which allows the fitment of full-length, side-to-side underbody protection panels. A modified front end increases airflow to the cooling system and houses additional race-level lighting, while a new roof spoiler houses additional rear lighting.
The 2022 Challenge will run over seven UK-based rounds, with dates and locations to be announced later in the year. There are 12 entries available for the one-make series, with each team competing in identical Bowler-prepared Defenders. The series is open to veteran competitors and those with no competition experience.
For those with limited experience or none, Bowler can offer training and support to gain the necessary licence before moving directly to the series. The Challenge has been an ideal platform on which to gain motorsport know-how before joining other Bowlers and competing in rally-raid events across the globe.
For 2022 and beyond, the Challenge will continue to focus on delivering a fun environment that fosters the development of driving and competition skills yet retains the involving, engaging feel of a real motorsport family.
Some years ago South Africa experimented with a class for 1-ton light commercial vehicles (bakkies) in the national rally series. Just as the idea was gaining traction and even being put to FIA for inclusion in the Africa Rally Championship, it was shut down.
There is a huge need for a relatively inexpensive entry class to national rallying in South Africa and a one-make concept such as this could be the way to go.
Calum Mckechnie, Bowler General Manager, says: “The previous Defender Challenge powered by Bowler Motorsport was an incredible success. So, we are delighted to announce the new Bowler Defender Challenge, launch the series and provide this amazing opportunity to experience Bowler in its natural environment. Using the team’s unique skills, knowledge and experience, developed over years of challenge and rally raid competition, has resulted in a formidable competition vehicle that will be exciting and rewarding to drive.”