The new Land Rover Defender is going off-road racing – and wants you as a driver, age no limit and no experience necessary.
Just as the Defender was reborn so too is the Defender Challenge making a comeback. Seven UK-based rounds of one-make rally-raid type competition roar into action in 2022, reprising the mud-plugging racing of the original Defender Challenge that ran from 2014-16. Then as now, it’s all the inspiration of Bowler whose latest off-road machine, the Bowler Defender, is revealed here.
Bowler is the off-road performance specialist that has been owned by Land Rover since 2019, and it has wasted no time in Bowlerising the latest 4x4. The Defender has been beefed up in all the expected places in the manner of erstwhile Bowler Landies like the Tomcat, Wildcat and Nemesis, using Bowler’s experience competing in the Dakar Rally, British Hill Climb Championship and French Baja.
Highly regarded for being tough and pretty unstoppable already, the Defender 90 short-wheelbase three-door that will make up the field of 12 identically-prepared cars get
a range of upgrades that turn family adventure vehicle into off-road racer, while still looking reasonably standard under the competition livery.
The Bowler Defender is powered by the 300PS (224kW) 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine from the standard model. Less standard are the column-mounted paddle shifters for the automatic transmission. New rally-spec 18-inch wheels are fitted too and the ride height raised 25mm thanks to a bespoke suspension set-up.
Extra bracing is incorporated into the front and fear subframes and the bodyshell is stiffened – this Defender being a unitary design of course, in contrast to the separate chassis of the old model. The air inlets, grille, front bumper, roof spoiler and extended wheel-arches are other tweaks. Underneath there are 6mm thick aluminium panels to protect against rocks.
Two competition seats, each with six-point racing harnesses, are fitted in the stripped-back interior which also features a full FIA roll cage. Fire suppression systems, electrical cut-outs and extra lighting are incorporated while another safety tweak is polycarbonate instead of glass in the Alpine roof windows.
Bowler general manager Calum Mckechnie calls the result “a formidable competition vehicle that will be exciting and rewarding to drive.”
And the drivers will be? Well, it could be you. Bowler is offering packages at £99,500 each that include the Defender as described, entry to the 2022 championship, driver training, event support and hospitality at each of the seven UK rounds.
Bowler says the series is open “to veteran competitors and those with no competition experience” and says the emphasis is 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.” For those who want to take their off-road racing more seriously Bowler can offer support on global rally-raid events.
“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,” JLR special ops managing director Michael van der Sande tells us.
The first Bowler Defender Challenge car will make its public debut at the Iceland Hill Rally 400km stage rally on 6th-8th August.