Bowler Defender Challenge will return in 2023

Bowler Defender at the 2022 Challenge

by Theo Ford-Sagers |

Land Rover SVO division’s winning recipe will be back next year, still at impressively good value

The dust hasn’t yet settled on this year’s Bowler Defender Challenge, but its return has already been announced for 2023.

Like this year, there will be 12 vehicles available with identical spec – although for the first time they will be available in both left- and right-hand drive, reflecting the international pool of participants. This is, after all, intended to be a stepping stone for drivers hoping to progress to overseas rallyraid events.

So, what's new?

Not an awful lot. The cars will be based on the P300 Defender 90, remaining road legal but comprehensively upgraded by Bowler (which has been part of JLR’s Special Vehicles Operations division since 2019). Major strengthening underneath ranges from braced subframes to stronger engine and gearbox mounts, while the 2.0-litre petrol engine and eight-speed automatic gearbox have enhanced cooling and the bespoke suspension uses bespoke Fox dampers with revised wishbones to reflect the slightly raised geometry. 0-60mph takes just 6.7 seconds.

There will be nine rounds next year, seven being competitive rounds, all in the UK. The provisional calendar comprises two Comp Safaris (rough, punishing terrain) and five Stage Rallies (mostly flatter and faster), beginning with Walters Arena in Wales on 4-5 March.

Dave Marsh, head of Bowler Motorsport, says: ‘We knew from our initial test programme with a pre-production Defender we had the basis of a rally car that would deliver great poise and stability under race conditions – essential for newcomers but still bringing great capability for experienced drivers. The big test was always going to be whether our 2022 competitors agreed, the answer has been an unequivocal yes! It’s been fantastic to see the cars relative performance against very serious competition in the diverse range of events selected for the Championship.’

Just for millionaires though, right?

Not quite. To take part in 2022 you’ll need £108,334 plus VAT (compared with £99,500 for this year’s series). Though that’s a lot, it does include complete ownership of a brand-new Defender 90 P300 converted by Bowler, plus full works support by Bowler’s technicians, support units and race hospitality throughout the championship – although event entry fees are extra.

For ‘time poor’ or international drivers, Bowler is also introducing an ‘Arrive and Drive’ option which includes repairing, cleaning, storing and delivering the vehicles between each of the rounds.

The 2022 Bowler Challenge story so far…

This year’s Bowler Defender Challenge used L633 Defenders for the first time. The latest outing saw the teams do battle at the Cambrian Rally, day and night; one car span into a bridge, damaging its front diff, sump, and steering rack – but Bowler’s team laboured through the night and had it competing the next morning. Team Beechcroft/Parish took the win.

There are 11 Bowler 90s gearing up to take part in the season closer at the Scottish Borders hillrally – a gruelling event on 19-20 November. Of the 54 vehicles at the event, over half will be Land Rovers, or based on them.

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