You know you’re really going for it when the world turns 90 degrees and you find yourself sliding along on your Land Rover’s side. That’s the position two of the crews in the Defender Challenge found themselves in at the 2014 Cambrian Rally.
Held in the forests of north Wales, the rally’s eight stages were tough on both man and machine. Of the 120 entrants in the rally, just 83 finished the event and although all of the seven Bowler-prepared Land Rover Defender 90s made it to the finish, they didn’t all do it unscathed.
Damien and Simon Taft put their Defender on its side on Special Stage 2, but were able to rejoin the rally at SS5, competing the final four stages.
Team Harford driver and LRO off-roading expert Edd Cobley was simply flying, but lost it on a corner on SS4. ‘It was just like glass, absolutely lethal that bend. I’m going to blame my tyres being bald compared to everybody else’s!’ He jokes. Edd clipped a bank, which slewed the Defender sideways and flipped it onto its side, crumpling the nearside wing and roof. An error with filing a timecard put him out of the running for the event, but he continued on the stages, and set the fastest time on the seven stages he stayed shiny side up for.
The other drivers were struggling with the conditions too. Bursts of rain dampened the flinty surfaces and the preceding rally cars polished the surfaces.
Richard Hayward has been driving consistently all season: ‘It was a bit slippery – we had times when we’ve thought “oh my god we’re sliding here – we’ve got to stop sliding”.’ Fortunately he kept the Defender on the road and finished with all of the panels straight and intact.
Northern Ireland duo David Johnston and Joseph Monaghan drove Matt Mills’ grey Defender to take first place in their first Defender Challenge event. They enjoyed the day immensely – wanting the stages to be longer. ‘We were talking about it earlier and the stages this afternoon felt too short; we wanted them to be longer,’ says David. ‘Usually when you’re coming to the end of a rally you just want to get the last stage done and finished. But honestly, it was just brilliant.’
Race2Recovery’s Ben Gott and Stephanie Boddez came home in second place, 1m40s behind class winners Johnston/Monaghan. ‘I’m a little bit gutted we weren’t first; I won’t lie!’ laughs Ben, ‘I didn’t realise David was doing so well, so we thought we had the win. It’s not the way I’d want it for Edd not to get a finish, but it makes it interesting for the final round.’
With Team Harford missing out on points on the Cambrian Rally, the championship will be decided at the final round of the season, the Borders Hill Rally on the Forrest Estate, Dumfries and Galloway on November 22-23. See scottish-hillrally.co.uk
Defender Challenge by Bowler - Round 6
1 David Johnston/Joseph Monaghan – 1hour 6min 58sec
2 Ben Gott/Stephanie Boddez (Team Race2Recovery) – 1hour 8min 38 sec
3 Richard Hayward/Matt Lister – 1hour 14min 26 sec
4 Stephen Richards/Kevin Handley – 1hour 17min 38 sec
5 Matt Prior/Jon Chester – 1hour 19min 44 sec*
Edd Cobley/J Tomley (Team Harford) stopped SS4
Damien Taft/Simon Taft rolled SS2
*inc 2min road penalty
Full results are here.
Land Rover Owner International is proud to be the official media partner of the 2014 Defender Challenge by Bowler. For more details on the championship see: bowlermotorsport.com