‘Everybody loves an underdog’. It’s a quote you’ve probably heard before and I’m sure you can relate to. For some reason I have always had a strong affection to race cars that probably shouldn’t be race cars. You know the ones? Struggling at the back of the field with no hope of placing well, but that you’re still glad are there.
Jaguar’s XKR GT3 program springs to mind as a personal favourite and don’t get me started on Nissan’s Deltawing. However both of these cars paled into insignificance when I laid my eyes on a Land Rover Freelander rally car this week. Move over Jaguar and Nissan, there’s a new underdog in town.
Yes you read that correctly, there are people out there who looked at one of Land Rover’s most maligned models – and lets be honest, that’s saying something – and thought ‘that would make a great race car’. Here is a compact SUV, fitted with a 1.8L four cylinder Rover K-series engine that are about as prone to popping head gaskets as they are to using fuel and were built by people more focussed on being at the pub, than having and form of quality control. Not exactly an ideal base to build a forest frying rally car one would think.
Anyway, what would one do with a Freelander rally car? You’d head over to the friendly chaps at the British Cross Country Championship (BCCC) who run a one-make series for the feisty little Freelander’s that’s what. The series has been running since 2011 and started as an approachable way to get into cross country rallying. It has a fairly hefty set of regulations to ensure not only an even playing field, but a cheap one too.
The regulations state that only minor modifications are allowed to the engine (exhaust and intake), shocks and underbody protection. In saying that the Freelanders do have to be fitted with FIA approved seats, harnesses and a 6 point bolt in roll cage to ensure drivers aren’t killed for their eccentric choice of rally car in the event of an accident. All in it will cost about £4000 to race prep’ a Freelander which is pretty good going when you consider you can buy a base cars in the UK for roughly the same price as a packet of crisps. If the thought of building one is a bit much you can always buy a ready modified example like this for £6500.
I’ve always said that driving a slow car fast, is more fun than driving a fast car slow. I’m sure there’s plenty out there that will disagree with me, but at the end of the day motorsport is meant to be fun right? Especially grass roots motorsport. There’s plenty of series that take themselves far too seriously and if you’re racing a Land Rover Freelander I don’t think you’d be one of them. So long live the underdog and if anyone’s looking for me, I’m looking up cheap Freelanders online.
- Check out Land Rover International Owners Magazine’s brief review of one of the Freelanders pictured rally here.
- Check out the British Cross Country Championship’s Freelander Challenge website here