This was the first hill rally in the Defender Challenge calendar. That meant rougher terrain, more akin to a comp safari; the drivers loved it, and the 90s withstood the abuse well.
Day one of the two-day rally saw all six cars surviving virtually undamaged. From the off, Edd Cobley fulfilled his goal to put his 90 in the top ten vehicles in the rally. Heroically battling it out for second place were Damien and Simon Taft (despite a frantic wheel change after a blowout) and Ben Gott and Stephanie Boddez from Race2Recovery.
The morning of day two proved quick and brutal, with hot sun burning off surface water, but torrential rain in the afternoon rapidly created seriously wet conditions.
In the service area, the news came in that Matt Mills and Jonathan Harford had rolled, landed on the co-driver’s side, and that Matt had hurt his hand. When the team returned with their intriguingly-crumpled Defender 90, it turned out that Matt was unharmed in the accident, but managed to get his hand shut in the drivers door when Jonathan was clambering out of it. Zero man points after all…
So what happened Matt? ‘I wish someone could tell me - I’d love to know! The back corner just hit something and went up. There’s a lot of rocks out there, and being tail end Charlie, a lot of cars ahead of me are digging them all up. It really isn’t kind on the cars.’
The Tafts got off to a dodgy start on Sunday and span twice. ‘We just haven’t gelled with the car as well as yesterday,’ said co-driver Simon around lunchtime. Within a few stages things were looking up, and they were fighting Race 2 Recovery again, but their luck ran out on Stage 16, and they too ended up on their side.
There’s nothing but admiration for the Bowler 90s. Edd Cobley waxed lyrical: ‘When we drove them with LRO a few months back, we knew they were going to be good – but who’d have thought these Defenders would be doing so well today. You just have to look at the attrition rate with the other competitors to see how well they’re holding up to the terrain. They don’t sound like some of the V8s out there, but just look at the times they’re putting in.’
Just look, in particular, at Edd's own time. Driving Steve Richards’ car, Edd came in ahead of Tomcats and Wildcats at an average speed of almost 38mph – impressive considering the terrain, and the rain. To put that in context, the overall winners, Christopher Bird and Chris Hammond, averaged 44.5mph in their Milner R5.
Results for the Defender Challenge by Bowler – Round 4, Welsh Hill Rally
1 Edd Cobley & Kevin Handley, 2hr 53min 52sec
2 Ben Gott & Stephanie Boddez (Race 2 Recovery), 2hr 58min 27sec
3 Dave Harlow/ Lyn Owen & Sara Smith (Harford), 3hr 09min 32sec
4 Richard Hayward & Matthew Lister, 3hr 23min 15sec
5 Damien Taft & Simon Taft, 3hr 28min 47sec
6 Matthew Mills & Jonathan Harford, 4hr 40min 5sec
According to the rules of the event, vehicles that miss stages scored the fastest time in their class for that stage, plus 15 minutes.
Two more teams are expected to enter the fray in time for the next rally: Woodpecker Stages, Ludlow, Shropshire (woodpecker-rally.co.uk) on August 30.
Land Rover Owner International is proud to be the official media partner of the 2014 Defender Challenge by Bowler.