Freelander gets pre-hill rally shakedown

by Neil Watterson |

LRO crew get ready for Welsh Borders Hill Rally

When you build a racer you need to give it a shakedown to make sure everything works – and that's exactly what Phil Griffiths and LRO editor Neil Watterson were up to over the bank holiday weekend.

Competing in the Welsh Borders Hill Rally on 27-29 May 2022, the duo will be up against some of the UK's best off-road racers. And rather than competing in anything too exotic, they'll be in a 2003 Land Rover Freelander Td4.

Rear shot of Phil's racer

Phil has been working on the Freelander for the past few months, upgrading the more vulnerable parts and bringing it up to standard to survive the competition, where some 104km of competitive off-roading awaits.

Upgrades include full internal roll cage, bucket seats, fire extinguishers and electrical cut-offs as well as other safety equipment. All interior trim has been removed and the spare wheel has been mounted inside to keep the weight more central.

Apart from beefing it up, the Freelander isn't far from factory spec – and there isn't much weight difference between the standard vehicle and the rally spec; the weight lost by removing the seats and trim is matched by the roll cage and other safety kit.

The team tested it at a secret off-road site in Cumbria, with the terrain and an array of obstacles hopefully matching the sort of stuff they'll face on the event. 'The aim was to test the vehicle but also to get a feel for how this Freelander handled once it was sliding,' explains Phil.

Freelander cocks a wheel

How did it perform? 'The quarry was great for pushing the Freelander and the faster track good to get a feel for the handling. Unsurprisingly it'll understeer if pushed but the nose can be brought in with throttle tweaks or, if needed, a bit of left foot braking.'

This was the first time to give it the beans and a few snags were found, from the negative battery lead being slightly loose on the terminal and the rear silencer box not quite being attached tightly enough. But that's what the testing was for.

Other slight niggles were noted and will be resolved in the coming weeks, but as a whole Phil and Neil were happy with it. Now the testing is done, it's time to get it stickered up – the countdown to the Hill Rally has started!

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