Land Rover is gradually injecting more performance into the second-generation Defender range. It recently added a supercharged, 5.0-liter V8 engine to the line-up, and in-house tuner Bowler Motors unveiled a competition-prepared Defender 90 it developed to race in a revamped one-make rally series that will take place in the United Kingdom.
Bowler channeled over 35 years of rallying expertise to turn the short-wheelbase version of Land Rover’s popular off-roader into a rally car. It added extra bracing to the chassis, strengthened the engine mounts, and installed a full internal roll cage in the name of safety. On-board electronic features (such as the stability control and ABS systems) were modified for competition as well, and the underbody is now protected by a thick aluminum skid plate. Suspension components developed jointly with Fox and 18-inch wheels wrapped by meaty tires increase the ride height.
Inside the cabin, it’s all rally, all the time. Gone are the airbags, the glass, and the supple leather. What’s left is a pair of racing seats with six-point harnesses, a three-spoke steering wheel, and polycarbonate windows.
Bowler chose to power the rally-bound Defender with a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that sends 300 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. It inhales through an intake system that’s mounted much higher than on the standard Defender, and it exhales through a sport exhaust system. Not making major mechanical modifications to the engine and the transmission keeps the cost of racing in check by ensuring the Challenge-bound cars can be repaired with off-the-shelf components.
Where the 2022 Defender Challenge will take participants hasn’t been unveiled yet. Bowler and Land Rover are planning on hosting seven rounds in the United Kingdom, and there are only 12 spots available. You can race even if you’ve never ventured off the beaten path before: The event is open to both expert and novice pilots. Bowler notes it’s willing to train new drivers and help them gain the required licenses before they get behind the wheel.
Land Rover revealed packages for the 2022 Challenge will start at £99,500 (about $138,000) including a Bowler-prepared Defender Challenge vehicle, an entry into the series, and event support. More details about the series will be released in the weeks leading up to the first race in March 2022. Until then, the Challenge-bound Defender is scheduled to make its competition debut at the 250-mile long Iceland Rally taking place in August 2021.
Bowler has taken the Defender racing before. In 2013, it transformed the first-generation, turbodiesel-powered model into a rally car and organized a similar one-make series that also took place in the United Kingdom.