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– Seven race-prepped Land Rover Defenders compete in Defender Challenge by Bowler Dakar feeder series in Somerset
– Race2Recovery’s Tony Harris and Richard Mitchell cross the line in first place in their maiden race

Rally fans were treated to racing featuring one of the country’s most iconic vehicles this weekend as the Defender Challenge by Bowler visited the Somerset Stages rally.

Seven drivers were behind the wheel of their Bowler-modified Land Rover Defender vehicles for Round 2 of the series, which aims to provide a pathway for teams who aspire to compete in the toughest races in the world, such as the Dakar and the Africa Race.  Tony Harris and his co-driver Richard Mitchell ended the day victorious after battling through the tough forest-based course of the Somerset Stages rally.

The 132 mile route saw teams race from Minehead through the woodlands of Exmoor National Park.  Across 12 stages the drivers were able to put their cars to the test, including tarmac and loose gravel forest stages.

Spectators watching along the course were treated to all the thrills of rallying and were able to watch the popular Race2Recovery team compete in their first race of the Defender Challenge by Bowler series.  As the world’s only disabled rally team, Race2Recovery was originally set up to enable injured soldiers with their rehabilitation and to inspire other people who may be ill or injured.  The team went on to become the first ever disabled team to compete in, and complete, the Dakar rally and their entry into this new race series has been made possible by their long-term sponsor, Land Rover.

Speaking at the finish line, Race2Recovery’s Tony Harris said: “It’s been a great day, I’m absolutely delighted with our first outing and to come home in first place; it was the perfect start to our Defender Challenge campaign. Rich’s co-driving has been good, and he’s picked up a few learning points. The tarmac stage was interesting and was a first for me in the Defender. Our vehicle has been handling superbly, especially on the gravel and forest tracks. It’s slippy, but not too slippy and there’s been some long stretches to get up into sixth gear.

“The forest stages are very similar to stages on the Dakar. While these are much shorter, this is the perfect platform to build up confidence, not just for the drivers but offers good practice to the navigators. It’s a great introduction for the co-drivers to learn to read the pace notes/road book which is vital to Dakar.”

Matt Mills, who joined the Defender Challenge for Round 2, commented on his maiden rally: “I am here to simply enjoy myself and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I would like to progress and am hoping to do some international rally raids in the future. I learnt to drive in a Defender and have owned many over the years; it’s nice to take the Defender to the next level. I have learned a lot this morning and am really enjoying it.”

Speaking at the service centre, Drew Bowler, Managing Director of Bowler Motorsport, said: “The series is working really well in that the competitors who were with us at Round 1 are already building their confidence. They’re self-sufficient, they’re not so nervous, and they’ve sorted their own administration. It is absolutely what the Defender Challenge is about; they’re building their confidence out on stage too and there’s a good competitive edge coming in – these are customers who wanted to be in motorsport but weren’t sure how to go about it, so to see these results so early on is fantastic.”

Across the remaining five rounds, competitors will face a demanding blend of hill rallies and stage rallies spread across South Wales, Nottinghamshire, Shropshire and Dorset, before the final round takes place in Scotland in mid-November.  Entrants will also have the option of competing in additional rallies in Europe and North Africa alongside the Bowler Works team.

More teams are set to be added ahead of the third race of the series, with a total of up to 15 cars due to compete in this year’s series.  Each team must take part in a minimum of five of the seven rounds, with their top five placings counting towards the final standings.

People wishing to find out more information about the Defender Challenge by Bowler should visit:  http://www.bowlermotorsport.com. Updates during the race can be found on the @LandroverUKPR twitter feed.

Defender Challenge by Bowler results from Round 2:

Position Car Driver Co-Driver Time
1 79 Tony HARRIS Richard MITCHELL 0:59:44
2 77 Damien TAFT Simon TAFT 1:00:10
3 60 Robert HARFORD Jonathan HARFORD 1:01:39
4 81 Matt MILLS Jon CHESTER 1:06:07
5 78 Simon ARMSTRONG Aynslie MORROW 1:06:56
6 76 Richard HAYWARD Matthew LISTER 1:07:10
7 80 Stephen RICHARDS Kevin HANDLEY 1:08:46

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