The year, as far as racing was concerned, started well for Bowler as Alex Cole won the Tuareg Rallye, whilst Bowler’s team also secured second and fourth place, all in Bulldogs.
At the Rallye du Maroc, Bulldogs took part with Andrew Wicklow battling to achieve a top twenty place. Covered in sand, he and his co-driver Quinn Evans came in beaming as they’d succeeded in such an arduous and long event covering 2000km over 5 days.
We also took part in the Spanish Baja and Moroccan Desert Challenge, both gruelling, world champion events of the FIA series. This step up to competing against the world champions was very different to the racing that we’ve been doing. Although we had cars that were finishers, and even with Andrew’s success in the Rallye du Maroc, we found it hard to be competitive against cars considerably more expensive than our own. Nevertheless we enjoyed the experience immensely.
Finally we competed in both the Welsh and Scottish Hill Rallies in the UK, gaining first place in Class 2 for production cars, titling Bowler the National British Champion of the Hill Rally Series.
The development of the Bulldog race car continues at pace as we work towards FIA compliance, which will allow our customers to race in rounds of the championship and the open series. The car’s development is ongoing through continuous improvement to the suspension with major upgrades being rolled out in early 2019. Additionally, changes have been made to the brakes and the wheels to enable us to run harder compound tyres preventing punctures.
The range of vehicles is now seemingly growing as the Bulldog is joined by a V8 race car, which will be entered alongside up to four Defender 110 cars in the British Championship. This is the first time that Bowler has looked at entering these races with these cars. However it gets us back to core business and shows Bowler is alive, well and still in Belper, making some of the finest off road racing vehicles available in the UK. On the Scottish Hill Rally the team only had to check over the cars, not even changing a tyre the entire weekend. The same is true when we raced the Bulldog at the Welsh Hill Rally, and despite the harsh technical conditions of both races the cars proved unmistakably strong and reliable.
For those who read Autocar, you will have seen in the Christmas edition a very strong article on a race Bulldog that was sold to Charlie Stopford-Sackville. The report was in the most glowing of terms and was very satisfying to read. Matt Saunders, the journalist, was very kind but meant the words he said. “It’s great fun, you can do so many different things with it. It’s a proper motorsport car and has so much more credibility than any tuned-up Defender, so it deserves more recognition than it has had.” Bowlers have been sold during the year to many diverse people and despite being race cars a couple have been sold to customers who are practically using them as everyday transport.
This year has been, as always with Bowler, a year of change. David Black, who left in November, will be sorely missed having eliminated many issues within the company, its engineering team and altering the production to ensure we could make as many cars as possible. However, the future for 2019 looks bright as we welcome Adam LeVan, an accountant with a flair for engineering, who has joined us looking after day-to-day management issues. We also have a new head of production, Dawn Rutter, to help improve our production performance.
Drew, if he were alive, would be immensely proud to see Andrew Wicklow and Bill Frain-Bell compete in the Africa Eco Race, reaching the finish line in Dakar after fourteen gruelling days. It was a satisfying start to the New Year!
Looking further forward into 2019, it is unlikely that Bowler will be taking part in the Tuareg Rallye. The rally, which usually takes part in Morocco, will be held in Algeria this year, where the British Government does not currently advise travel. Although we are disappointed we will not be able to defend our 2018 win at Taureg, we have five confirmed vehicles attending the Moroccan Desert Challenge which takes place just a few weeks later. There is also an extensive racing program being planned for Bowler works participation in the British Championship with V6 and V8 cars and in world events with CSP Bulldog cars. More information is available on our website.
May I take this opportunity to thank each of you for your ongoing support for Bowler, and to invite you to follow our endeavours throughout 2019.
Director of Bowler Brands Ltd.