After the summer break, Defender Challenge by Bowler returns this weekend for its fourth round as nine teams battle it out at the Trackrod Rally, part of the annual Rally Yorkshire event. Based at Pickering Showground, the course takes in 53 miles of rally stages that twist through the spectacular Yorkshire countryside over two days and opening with the daunting prospect of challenging night stages.
The FIA-approved Land Rover Defender 90 Hard Tops are modified by Bowler Motorsport specifically for rally competitions. Engines are tuned to 170bhp and 450Nm of torque and the suspension system features uprated dampers and roll bars. Lighter wheels, a full roll-cage and rally safety features complete the specification.
This weekend, a number of Land Rover employees and apprentices join the Bowler technical teams to support the rally. In addition to their ‘day jobs’, enthusiasts from across the Land Rover family have volunteered their time to get involved with the Defender Challenge. For the apprentices in particular this proves to be a unique and exhilarating experience which enhance their apprenticeship programmes. Working in a competitive environment encourages the development of new skills, working as a team to employ creative and innovative solutions to problems under pressure and against the clock.
Lynfel Owen, Land Rover Vehicle Engineering Manager and member of ‘The Defenderists’ team said, “The Defender Challenge rally vehicles are ideal for the apprentices to gain their early experience on. Its relative simplicity means that while still in training, the apprentices could face any number of challenges from swapping wheels to replacing axles, allowing their progression to more complex vehicles to be smoother. It also gives them experience of the tight time constraints that exist in motorsport, as well as a sense of achievement when their team and vehicle perform well in the Challenge.”
Tom Gladwin, Jaguar Land Rover Apprentice said, “As a child my Dad took me greenlaning and my family run a British Superbike team, which is where my passion for off-roading and motor racing started. Working on these cars made me feel completely at home. The skills I have learnt, those of team working, handling pressure, and back-to-basics engineering, have hugely helped me with my day job at Jaguar Land Rover.”
In its second year, the Defender Challenge has grown from strength to strength with 13 teams competing this year. Preparation for the larger scale rally raid competitions, such as the famous Dakar Rally and Africa Race are already afoot with new Defender modifications under development and competitors taking each round of the Defender Challenge as a training opportunity for the larger international events.
Half-way through the season, Edd Cobley and John Tomley lead the championship table, having amassed a string of consistent victories and leading the table by 10 points. Now, with three rounds remaining and 21 points for a win, there is everything to play for and all teams have a chance at the title.