Defender goes rallying: Bowler transforms reborn icon for 2022 Challenge Series

Bowler Motors, the off-road performance specialist, has revealed the Land Rover Defender rally car that will compete in its own championship in 2022. 

The Bowler Defender Challenge is based on the Land Rover Defender 90 with a 221kW Ingenium 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. Bowler uses its long experience of competition to transform it into a rally car with a full roll cage, modified underbody, raised suspension, rally-spec 18-inch wheels and column-mounted paddle shifters.

Since going on sale in 2020 the Land Rover Defender has won acclaim from customers and media for its unstoppable capability, engaging drive and overall robustness. The more compact shorter wheelbase Defender 90 proved the perfect starting point for the Bowler conversion. 

The rally Defenders are built for their own competition – the Bowler Defender Challenge series – on seven events around the UK in 2022.

Michael van der Sande, Managing Director, Jaguar Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations, said: “The development of the new Bowler Defender Challenge rally car perfectly illustrates the mutual benefits of Bowler joining Jaguar Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations. Our technical support married to Bowler’s legendary rally expertise has turned the extraordinarily capable Defender into a purposeful competition machine. The Bowler Defender Challenge will prove the Defender’s durability through some of the toughest conditions, while providing an exciting and accessible entry point into all-terrain motorsport for a new generation of Bowler and Land Rover customers.”

Bowler Defender Challenge: the car

Each Bowler Defender Challenge is completely stripped back to install a full FIA-standard roll cage. The front and rear subframes are modified and given additional bracing for a new bespoke performance suspension set-up. Designed in collaboration with Fox, it increases the ride height by 25mm. This purposeful stance is enhanced by new Bowler rally-spec 18-inch wheels.

Bowler’s engineers have provided a suite of electronic components, from fire protection and electrical cut-offs to additional lighting and vehicle control systems – all fully integrated into the existing electrical architecture. Competition race seats are installed and the gear selector is repositioned for the optimal racing position. Bowler-developed column-mounted paddle shifts complete the transition.

During the conversion Bowler subtly modify and stiffen the already extraordinarily rigid Defender bodyshell to cope with the extreme conditions of off-road competition. 

The standard doors are trimmed to remove the sill covering section, which allows the fitment of full-length, side-to-side underbody protection panels. A modified front end increases airflow to the cooling system and houses additional race-level lighting, while a new roof spoiler houses additional rear lighting.

Bowler Defender Challenge: the competition

The 2022 Challenge will run over seven UK-based rounds, with dates and locations to be announced later in the year. There are 12 entries available for the one-make series, with each team competing in identical Bowler-prepared Defenders. The series is open to veteran competitors and those with no competition experience. 

For those with limited experience or none, Bowler can offer training and support to gain the necessary licence before moving directly to the series. The Challenge has been an ideal platform on which to gain motorsport know-how before joining other Bowlers and competing in rally-raid events across the globe. 

For 2022 and beyond, the Challenge will continue to focus on delivering a fun environment that fosters the development of driving and competition skills yet retains the involving, engaging feel of a real motorsport family.

The competition calendar covers the UK and each Bowler Defender Challenge-equipped team will face a true mix of rally conditions. For each round there will be a full Bowler support team, with dedicated service areas. A hospitality area will help drivers and teams make the most of downtime and attend briefings throughout the events. The Challenge will enjoy full coverage through national and Bowler media channels. 

Bowler’s own Bowler Defender Challenge car will make its public debut at the Iceland Hill Rally 400km stage rally on 6-8 August.

Calum Mckechnie, Bowler General Manager, said: The previous Defender Challenge powered by Bowler Motorsport was an incredible success. So, we are delighted to announce the new Bowler Defender Challenge, launch the series and provide this amazing opportunity to experience Bowler in its natural environment. Using the team’s unique skills, knowledge and experience, developed over years of challenge and rally raid competition, has resulted in a formidable competition vehicle that will be exciting and rewarding to drive.”

Packages for the 2022 Challenge will start at £99,500 which includes a Bowler-prepared Defender Challenge car, entry into the 2022 series, which starts in March, and event support. Further options include training, series logistics and vehicle support. A range of accessories developed as part of this programme will be available later in the year.

Further information on the Bowler Defender Challenge can be found at www.bowlermotors.com

Editors’ notes

Bowler Land Rover Defender Challenge Car specification (modifications from base).

Structural body and chassis:

  • Monocoque bracing – minimises body movement and supports underbody protection
  • Full internal roll cage integrated with body and linking suspension mounts
  • Internal spare wheel mount integrated to roll cage
  • Additional front recovery points
  • Rally-spec gearbox cross member
  • Stiffened gearbox mounts
  • Strengthened engine mounts
  • Braced front and rear subframes
  • Front suspension turret brace
  • Rear turret brace
  • Strengthened radiator mounts
  • Adapted chassis and subframe mounts

Performance:

  • Cooling – auxiliary radiators removed and system redesigned to increase airflow to main radiator
  • Increased transmission cooling capacity
  • Bowler Sports exhaust system
  • Bowler 18” wheels with increased strength
  • All-terrain tyres
  • Bespoke suspension design with modified subframes, new springs and unique turrets for increased stiffness
  • Bespoke Fox dampers
  • Race steering wheel with quick release boss
  • Side air intake covers
  • High level air intake
  • Front upper wishbone revised to reflect new ride height geometry

Electrical/systems

  • ECU system integration with race box
  • ABS/DSC – rally control modifications
  • New integrated wiring harness for new components
  • New rally-spec facia 
  • Navigator control unit for lights/washer/horn
  • Rally system integration with JLR safety systems
  • Adapted body control unit

Regulatory

  • High-level rear marker lights
  • Alpine, door and rear windows replaced with polycarbonate
  • Race sports seats with specific race seat mounts
  • 6-point race harness
  • Integrated and hand-held fire suppression
  • Electrical cut-off switches – internal and external
  • Complete removal of all airbag systems

Design

  • Front bumper adapted to take new underbody protection
  • Bowler front grille with increased air flow
  • Rear roof spoiler with extended profile and integrated additional reversing lights
  • Front and rear wing shields to meet new underbody protection
  • Wheel arch extensions utilising accessory fitment
  • Door lowers – protection pieces on shortened doors

Rally Function

  • Additional bonnet-mounted windscreen washers – to deal with rally levels of water splash
  • Front driving lights for increased night driving illumination
  • Rally-spec mudflaps
  • Full underbody protection system – 6mm aluminium reinforced design
  • New gear shift position – optimised to sports seats
  • Column-mounted gear shift paddles – unique to Bowler
  • Passenger foot rest
  • Rear door manual release mechanism
  • Wheel arch lines – increased strength to meet rally requirements

About Bowler

Bowler, founded in 1985, is based in Belper, Derbyshire and pioneered the production of dedicated off-road competition cars in the UK.  

It has achieved international success in rally raid events, having previously participated in the Dakar Rally, British Hill Climb Championship and French Baja with their Tomcat, Wildcat & Nemesis models.

Bowler provides its customers with competition racing events, to provide them with the driving skills and technical competition knowledge necessary to undertake international rally raid events. 

Bowler has become synonymous with conversions and modifications of Defender models, designed to enhance power, handling, braking and comfort. These can be tailored to suit individual requirements and desires, including bespoke engineering requirements.

Since its inception Bowler has had a close affiliation with Land Rover, which was formalised with a brand partnership in 2012 that led to the creation of the popular Defender Challenge by Bowler rally series in 2014 – 2016.

The business was acquired by Jaguar Land Rover Group in December 2019 and forms part of Special Vehicle Operations. 

Bowler’s motorsport heritage
1985
 Drew Bowler begins making and selling competitive safari and trials cars from his home in Derbyshire

1991 Drew Bowler wins ARC National Comp Safari

2000 Bowler first competes in world-famous Dakar Rally in Africa, and races in central Europe

2004 Bowler vehicle wins British Hill Rally Championship

2005 Bowler’s largest ever Dakar entry means it’s the second largest factory team, and has highest finisher rate

2006 Bowler vehicles win both the British Baja National Championship and the French Baja

2012 Bowler agrees formal brand partnership with Land Rover across sponsorship, marketing and engineering

2014 Defender Challenge launched to prepare competitors for Dakar. Bowler moves into new production facility

2016 CSP development begins. Company founder Drew Bowler sadly passes away in November

2018 Bowler vehicles claim first, second and fourth overall on Tuareg Rallye

2019 Jaguar Land Rover acquires Bowler

2020 Bowler granted licence by Jaguar Land Rover to produce road-biased Defender Station Wagon – codenamed CSP 575

  • Bowler is granted use of the Defender name under licence from Jaguar Land Rover.