The 2022 Tata Elxsi Bowler Defender Challenge took competitors to Walters Arena, Neath, for an action-packed Championship debut last weekend.
The 13 competitors were all introduced to their brand-new Bowler Defender rally cars before a day of familiarisation and the first day of competition in this year’s Challenge championship.
Sunday morning kicked off with three-time British Rally and 2018 British Rallycross champion Mark Higgins behind the wheel of car 12. Despite the varied experience across the field, from complete novices through to experience Dakar and track competitors, Higgins was soon being chased down by a number of competitors, with times improving significantly throughout the early session.
Higgins and Williams set a blistering pace from the start – clearly utilising vast experience to deliver the fastest lap by a comfortable margin. As competition progressed Higgins and co-driver Claire Williams continued to lead the field, until retiring mid-way into the afternoon.
Several competitors put the toughness of their Bowler Defenders to the test as they explored the capabilities and performance of their cars. A team of Bowler technicians swiftly serviced and repaired any damage, turning the cars around quickly to keep the competition alive.
With Higgins and Williams out the trio of Thwaites/Cuming, car 3, Beecroft/Parish, car 10, and Williams/Chambers, car 7, emerged vying for the lead. Consistent improvement was the benchmark of all three as Beecroft and Thwaites swapped fastest times. With the afternoon drawing on Thwaites topped the leader board leaving Beecroft with one lap remaining and an 8 second gap to close.
Pulling out their fastest lap of the weekend, the number 10 car of Beecroft and Parish feverishly chased down the clock, just missing out by two seconds to a smooth performance from Thwaites and Cuming who took the win.
Williams and Chambers scored a well-deserved third to complete a podium covered by less than a minute – with all three competing in a rally for the first time. The leaders were joined on the podium by Gareth Bent and Paul Hulston, voted by the organisers of the event to receive the “Spirit of the Rally” award for their commitment and endurance.
Commenting on the successful conclusion of first event in the 2022 Tata Elxsi Bowler Defender Challenge, Bowler General Manager. Calum McKechnie said “It’s been an amazing weekend for our entire team of competitors, technicians and support staff.
“The action has been incredible. There have definitely been challenges for some in the competition and I think everyone has learnt a lot from the event – both in terms of rally skills and the capability of the cars. To have three complete novices competing so closely for the win is brilliant and shows just how exciting this championship is set to be.”
The next round of the 2022 Tata Elxsi Bowler Defender Challenge takes place at the Rally North Wales on the 26 March.