It was way back in 2014 that the Defender Challenge launched, pitching Land Rover’s icon against the toughest terrain the UK had to offer. Unsurprisingly, the idea of rallying a Defender with event support from Bowler proved pretty popular, the series enjoying sufficient success that it evolved to incorporate the new Defender. With the 2022 Tata Elxsi Bowler Defender Challenge almost done for the year - the Cambrian Rally and Scottish Borders Hill Rally are left - the 2023 calendar has been announced.
Next year will see the same cars used as 2022, each Challenge powered by the 300hp 2.0-litre turbo and with modifications for competition including a roll cage, additional transmission cooling, more windscreen washers (!) Fox dampers, all-terrain tyres and, of course, mud flaps. It’s a proper transformation, actually, with 6mm thick underbody aluminium protection, polycarbonate windows, and as much additional bracing as possible.
It’ll all be put to good use in 2023, with a seven round calendar planned. A couple of locations are to be confirmed, but it’ll run from March to November and include the Walters Arena in Wales, the Nicky Grist Stages and the Rally Nuts Stages.
Calum McKechnie, Bowler General Manager, said: “The 2022 Defender Bowler Championship has exceeded expectations on all fronts. As we anticipated, the latest generation Defender has proven to be a highly capable and extremely tough rally car which continues to surprise and thrill anyone who has experienced it. It has delivered incredibly close competition amongst the teams whilst still competing aggressively against the competition in the open rounds. Above all, the team camaraderie and relationships formed around the Championship have been a highlight which has attracted many new interested customers.”
Sounds like a pretty great way to spend a few summer weekends, right? Well, the 2023 Defender Challenge by Bowler won’t come cheap - this is Land Rover and motorsport, after all. Packages start at £108,334 plus VAT, which will get you the car (it remains road legal, too), ‘management’ through nine events (seven of them are competitive), plus hospitality and works support at each rally. Entry fees are an additional cost on top. Arrive and drive is also an option for 2023, though there isn’t a price for any of the events yet. Driver training also hasn’t been costed, but suffice it to say you’re going to need a healthy budget to be successful in Defender rallying.
Still, there must be far worse ways to spend that sort of money, and assuming you follow the pacenotes there will be a Defender Challenge road car left at the end of the season as well. The way things are going that’ll probably be worth £100,000 come autumn 2023 anyway. Applications for next season are open now, with more information here - and a video that makes the Defender Challenge look even better than it sounds…
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