Beecroft and Parish take Cambrian Rally win

Posted on 3 November 2022


The 2022 Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally certainly put the challenge into the Tata Elxsi Defender Challenge this weekend. Slippery conditions and sinuous stages held a war of attrition on the field, with over 40 competitors out by Saturday lunchtime’s service interval. In the thick of the action all weekend were the Defender Challenge competitors, racing towards the championship finale in the penultimate round. An action-packed event pushed the team and the competitors to maximum performance all round.

The Tata Elxsi Bowler Defender Challenge arrived at the Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally with everything to play for. The pairing of Jamie Thwaites and Chris Cumming led the table coming into the weekend but seven competitors were left with a mathematical chance to take the 2022 title. Jason Seddon and John Tomley were out of the running before the event got underway due to illness, so nine cars arrived for scrutineering. Red Bull Extreme E driver Catie Munnings joined the team for a guest drive, her first experience of the Bowler Defender. Munnings was partnered for the weekend by co-driver Claire Williams.

A bespoke service area hosted by the team at Conwy Land Rover was the base for the weekend and Friday evening saw the Bowler Defenders take on two tarmac night stages. David Beecroft and Fraser Parish set the pace on the first special stage, opening up a five second lead on the pairing of Daniel Beecroft and co-driver Barney Gillespie. They in turn were chased by Frazer Williams/Mark Acher in the 402 car and Gary Bulley/Peter Wilson. Bulley and Wilson’s chase came to a dramatic end in the second of the night stages, with an incident at a wet, mud covered section of the course spinning their car into the side of a bridge. The impact caused significant damage to the diff, sump, front wheels and steering rack. With Bulley out, Thwaites and Cumming picked up their pace to clock the fastest time, pushing Beecroft/Parish into second whilst the partnership of Miles Williams and Paul Chambers finished the stage in third – the start of a consistent run of form for the event. GP Racing’s Paul Hulston and Gareth Bent also cleared the challenge of the night stages along with the Munning/Williams car.

The stranded 408 car of Gary Bulley and Peter Wilson was recovered back to the pits late into the evening. Having lost the majority of oil through a damaged sump and with a smashed diff it looked to be the end of their weekend. However, what followed underlined the commitment of the Bowler technicians, seeing a team of mechanics and specialists work through the night in car park service area to repair and rebuild the car, combining professionalism and ingenuity to bring the damaged Defender back up to competition readiness. A brief test early the following morning revealed a previously masked issue with the steering rack, which would have rendered all the previous night’s efforts null and void so the team efficiently fitted a brand new rack in less than forty minutes to allow Bulley and Wilson to make the start of the day’s stages.

With a very wet start to the morning the day’s gravel stages promised little traction and plenty of challenge for the field. The morning stages claimed a significant number of competitors. Beecroft/ Parish topped the times on the first two stages, with Lee Caroline and Syd Phillimore chasing them home in second on both. With the third stage of the morning cancelled due to conditions the action resumed with Thwaites asserting his authority, attempting to close down the gap to Beecroft and taking stage wins for the next two stages. On the final stage before lunch the tricky conditions and surface claimed one of the Bowler competitors as Williams and Acher left the course and were out of the event – both driver and navigator being unhurt. Unfortunately, the event claimed a second Bowler Defender as Gary Bulley and Peter Wilson suffered a roll on stage 7, ruling them out of the event. Once again both competitors survived the incident unhurt, with the car being driveable but unable to continue in the competition. Beecroft, Thwaites and Williams/Chambers all grabbed a stage win each to finish the event. The three protagonists filled the podium with Beecroft/Parish taking the event win, 27 seconds ahead of Thwaites/Cumming who in turn were a further 46 seconds ahead of Williams and Chamber who turned a consistent performance all weekend into third place overall.

That was certainly an action-packed weekend, for competitors and technicans alike!” summarised Bowler Head of Motorsport Dave Marsh “There have been some incredibly testing conditions and these stages are tricky at the best of times. Our drivers have had to contend with both night stages and the weather – and it has definitely taken its toll. Once again, despite the conditions the Defender has shown what an amazingly tough base platform it is for competition. I really do need to highlight the incredible work from the Bowler team of technicians this weekend. They worked until 4.30am to get Gary’s car ready to compete after some significant damage and were all there to assist with a rapid steering rack change at 7.30am. An amazing team effort. We’re now all looking forward to the climax of a great year at the last round!”

The final round of the Tata Elxsi Bowler Defender Challenge will be held at the Scottish Borders Hill Rally 18th-20th November. To find out more about the Tata Elxsi Bowler Defender Challenge please visit https://www.bowlermotors.com/bowler-defender-challenge/

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