Land Rover has confirmed that it is the official sponsor of the 2014 ‘Defender Challenger by Bowler’, which will see a field of up to 15 tricked-up Defender 90s hit the rough stuff as crews get down and dirty, Dakar style.
What’s the series all about?
It’s all about enticing those who are curious about rally raids, such as the legendary Dakar event that’s held early each year. A lack of experience, as well as costs, has made it difficult for novices looking to qualify for the necessary licence, so the Defender Challenge is ideal for rally wannabes looking to dip a toe in the water, so to speak, with no experience required to enter.
What’s been done to the cars?
The sturdy and dependable Defenders will be built by Bowler Motorsport, an outfit based in Derbyshire that’s been putting together hard-core off-road competition beasts since 1985. They’ll take a spotless, shiny new 90, fit tougher suspension, lightweight 18in alloys wrapped in chunky control tyres before you cover it in mud, sand and anything that crosses your path. The 2.2-litre diesel gets another 50bhp, for a total of 170, while the low-down torque jumps from 266lb ft to an even brawnier 332lb ft. There’s also a lightweight front bumper and a racing livery, too.
Inside, you and your co-driver will be perched in race seats and protected by a full-roll cage and fire extinguisher. The series is MSA approved, and the cars comply with FIA regs enabling them to compete internationally.
How much do the cars cost?
The Defender will set you back £50,000 plus VAT, with entry into the series priced between £12-14k, depending on how much fettling you want the guys at Bowler to carry out. That’s a fair shout more than the £22k list price the Defender starts at, but it’s still a relatively cheap form of motorsport using a brand new vehicle.
When and where does the series begin?
The provisional calendar sees the first of seven rounds taking place in Newtown, Wales, on 2 March 2014, with events in Somerset, Nottinghamshire, Dorset and Dumfries in Scotland. We’re salivating over the thought of a herd of toughened-up Defender spitting mud out the back and flying over dirt mounds….