2024 Defender Rally Series Opens With Fierce Competition

2024 DEFENDER RALLY SERIES SPONSORED BY TATA ELXSI OPENS WITH FIERCE COMPETITION AT WALTERS ARENA

Posted on 15 March 2024


  • New season: 2024 Defender Rally Series opens at Walters Arena, Wales, with adverse weather failing to hold back the line-up of specially prepared Defender 90 vehicles
  • First-round triumph: Overall winner Mark Thomas and co-driver Phil Mackay top the UK Series, while Andrew Burgess and Dan Hutchings emerge victorious in the European Baja Championship
  • Vehicle handover: New competitors drove their rally-ready Defenders for the first time, each featuring a distinct version of the 2024 livery, identified by a unique signature colour
  • Growing competition: Defender 90-based rally series is limited to 16 driver and co-driver pairings in 2024, the largest entry list in the history of the championship
  • Challenging conditions: Competitors endured tricky conditions throughout the weekend, with rain, snow, hail, lightning and sun constantly changing the rally stage’s surfaces
WATCH THE SHORT FILM FROM ROUND 1, 2024 DEFENDER RALLY SERIES

The 2024 Defender Rally Series began on Sunday 3 March at Walters Arena, Wales, with both UK and European Baja Championship competitors powering through trying conditions in rally-prepared Defender 90s. Mark Thomas and co-driver Phil Mackay won the UK Championship event, while Andrew Burgess and Dan Hutchings emerged victorious in the European Baja Championship.

Entering its fourth year, the Defender Rally Series UK Championship is the largest ever, with up to 16 competitors at certain events. Drivers come from a diverse range of motorsport backgrounds, some with previous track racing or rallying experience, others with no performance driving history at all. Across the season, all benefit from expert driver coaching and works support.

Supported by the expert team from Bowler*, both the UK and European Baja Championships began at Walters Arena with three days of pre-season practice and testing, allowing competitors to get to know their vehicles, and familiarise themselves with safety protocols and procedures ahead of Sunday’s first competitive round. Every new Defender 90 competing in the Defender Rally Series took to the stages sporting the new-look 2024 livery, customised to each competitor with a statement colour behind a signature black pattern. Those new to the Defender Rally Series began the weekend with in-depth handovers, getting the keys for the first time and a complete run-down of systems and features.

Battling rain, snow, lightning, sun and hail across the weekend, drivers and co-drivers navigated a seven-mile looped course eight times to complete the competitive stage. Mark Thomas and co-driver Phil Mackay claimed top honours, completing their final two course loops and crossing the finish line minus a tyre with a total time of 1hr 16m 37s. Dennis Ferry and Richard Mills secured second position, 1m 33s behind, while Richard Kingsley Smith and Adel Tyson took third, only seven seconds behind. All three duos were the fastest UK Championship entrants but also the fastest overall.

Mark Thomas, winner of round one, said: “The Defender Rally Series demystifies how to get into rallying. The whole process, from having our hands held through the paperwork, to the driver training and more, it helps you to go from a non-rally driver, to participating and gaining skills. We had a bit of damage during race day, including a tyre burst to such an extent that it even came off the vehicle. If the Defender 90 can complete one-third of a rally stage with just three tyres then it is clearly well made! I would say that the opportunity to go rallying, and then win the first rally event I’ve ever done, is a dream come true.”

In the European Baja Championship, Andrew Burgess and co-driver Dan Hutchings emerged victorious with a total time of 1hr 23m 22s, while Paul White and Barney Gillespie finished in second position, followed by Miles Williams and Matt Lowe to round out the podium.

Calum McKechnie, General Manager, Bowler Motors, said: “We’ve had a thrilling launch to the Defender Rally Series 2024 season. From welcoming our new driver teams, training and a race simulation day, through to an exciting first competitive round, each day of the season’s first event has been a testament to our commitment to excellence. Our growing community of teams showed camaraderie, support, and shared desire for adventure. We’re immensely proud of the progress and success seen throughout the event and the anticipation is building for the upcoming rounds.”

The next round of the UK Championship is Rally Nuts, Builth Wells, on 13 April, while the European Baja Championship resumes on 28 April with the Rallye Terres du Gatinais in France.

The weekend at Walters Arena was the first opportunity for the talented team of Defender Rally Series engineers to get to grips with the cars under competition conditions, implementing new strategies for vehicle management at the 2024 season opener.

Ashley Vaughan, Lead Event Technician, Bowler Motors, said: “We had new procedures in place at this event, plus new training methods for the removal and refitment of steering racks; not only were these completed before the allocated time was up, but they were also done in adverse weather conditions and under pressure. We’re proud of our teams and the new technicians and electricians at this event, who got straight onto every task and completed them safely and quickly. Our service efficiency was successful even in the extreme weather. I’m proud of our team for their efforts, enthusiasm and willingness to learn and support each other.”

WALTERS ARENA RD 1 EVENT RESULTS

UK CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS AFTER RD 1

PositionDriver / Co-DriverTotal TimeVariation
1Thomas/Mackay01:16:37+0:0:00
2Ferry/Mills01:18:10+0:1:33
3Kingsley-Smith/Tyson01:18:17+0:1:40
4Bell/Tomley01:19:09+0:2:32
5Lynch/Nicoll01:20:36+0:3:59
6McCallum/King01:23:36+0:6:59
7Fairhead/Hooper01:24:30+0:7:53
8Dooling/Dooling01:27:40+0:11:03
9Burrell/Kirby01:30:55+0:14:18
10Williams/Hammond01:38:39+0:22:02

EU BAJA CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS AFTER RD 1

PositionDriver / Co-DriverTotal TimeVariation
1Burgess/Hutchings1:23:22+0:0:00
2White/Gillespie1:23:51+0:0:29
3Williams/LoweRETRET

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