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by Dave Barker, 27th December 2016

Dave Barker identifies ten great off-road events for Defender owners of all abilities

When the Rover Company invented the Land Rover, they designed it to be a versatile, go anywhere vehicle, offering the end-user limitless opportunities in the process. That design challenge has followed on through the various Series models to the Ninety, One Ten and now Defender, and hopefully will never change. The off-road events that you can do right in a Defender are as diverse and widespread as their owners. So too are the Defender modifications they have made in order to take part in some of these events. We have identified ten top off-road events for Defender owners who don’t like tar roads.

Defender Trophy

The Defender Trophy is a raid-style navigation event. It starts in Spain before crossing into Morocco. According to organisers the event is a 100% dedication to the iconic Defender. The inaugural 2016 Defender Trophy takes place from April 24 to May 8 and is billed as a friendly, relaxed event with no timed sections. However, all participants can expect a regularity classification at the end of each day. A standard Defender will not be enough, each vehicle will also have to carry camping equipment, GPS, spare water, fuel containers, sand ladders and guards. You will also require a spares pack containing shock absorbers, wheel bearings and shafts. A proper adventure for any Defender owner.


WITH A history stretching back to 1955, The Association of Land Rover Clubs' (ALRC) National Rally, is regarded as the event to go to if you own any Land Rover and not just a Defender. The first Nationals were held at the factory and organised by the then Land Rover Owners Club. The National is normally held over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend. In 2016 the ALRC National will be organised by the Southern Rover Owners Club in East Sussex over the weekend of May 26 – 31. The Defender is the ideal vehicle to compete in, without any modifications you can enter the Tyro or the Road Taxed Vehicle trials. If you have a roll cage then the Cross Country Trial is for you. For those with a few extra modifications there is the Comp Safari. In fact, you can enter them all in the same Defender.
www.alrc.co.uk or www.sroc.co.uk

Defender Challenge

The Defender Challenge Championship launched in 2014 and it’s a one-make rally series for Defenders. To enter the championship you need a Bowler motorsport-prepared Defender as they comply with the various event regulations that cover aspects such safety, performance and durability. At the heart of the challenge is the humble and seemingly simple Defender, using the standard 2.2-litre engine. It’s been uprated to deliver 170 bhp and gear changes are done via a 6-speed manual gearbox. The vehicle is still very recognisable to everyone as a Defender that rolled off the Solihull production floor. There are various Bowler Motorsport packages available to prospective competitors, this includes full service and support at Bowler Motorsport events. In 2015 the challenge consisted of six rounds, three stage rallies and three hill rallies. Details of the 2016 Defender Challenge are still to be announced, but is expected to be a similar mix as this year. 

Trial Events

Trial events are possibly the oldest form of cross country motorsport. They started many moons ago when someone suggested they try their Land Rovers out on a rough bit of land to see how far they could go. Each weekend of the year there will be a Land Rover club running a trials events somewhere in the country. Many of these trials are suitable for unmodified Land Rovers and are called Road Taxed Vehicles trials (RTV’s). The idea is to drive a course over difficult terrain marked out with 10 or 12 pairs of canes, and to complete the course driving through these gates without touching them and without stopping. The driver that incurs the least penalty points accrued for hitting a gate or stopping, is the winner. A completely standard Defender is more than capable of taking part in any RTV Trial. 

The Malaysian Rainforest Challenge

First run in 1997, the Malaysian Rainforest Challenge is regarded as the ultimate off-road challenge event. It requires extraordinary driving, navigation and winching skills, as well as survival skills. Teams are required to carry all their own equipment for the duration the event runs. To survive the event you need a vehicle that can survive the rainforest. A Defender has won the event in the past, with British driver Simon Buck from Devon 4x4 fame, behind the wheel. Any Defender taking part will need to be modified. Steering and diff guards, front and rear winches, uprated shafts, suspension and locking diffs, are all a must-have. To conquer the Malaysian rainforest is a massive achievement.

See a video of the 2016 event here


The MSA British Cross Country Championship is the premier championship for Comp Safari competitors in the UK. The BCCC championship normally runs from around April to October over six rounds, across Wales, Scotland and the south of England. The BCCC attracts a wide range of cross country vehicles, from purpose-built specials with highly customised chassis to completely standard, fresh from the dealership examples, which can compete in the production class. To enter you would need a vehicle that conforms to all the MSA safety requirements of a Comp Safari and the BCCC championship. Details of the championship can be found on the organiser's website.

Icelandic Tour

Many Land Rover owners think of Iceland as the ultimate off-road destination due to the remote tracks, rugged terrain and spectacular scenery. Shipping your vehicle to Iceland is one option that would allow you to enjoy all Iceland has to offer from comfort of your own Defender driving seat. Another option is to fly in and use a local 4x4 tours company such as Isak 4x4, who rent out a standard and super Defender. The standard Defender comes with a snorkel and a shovel while the super Defender comes with 38-inch tyres, GPS, air compressor, VHF radio and more. So, if you fancy a true wilderness adventure maybe you need to look at an Icelandic adventure?

Challenge Event

Over the past 20 years challenge events have evolved somewhat. They started out as winching events that required moving an object round a course by using a winch attached to a static vehicle. Some of today’s Challenge events require highly specialised and modified vehicles. Locking diffs, special tyres and extreme suspension set-ups are compulsory if you want to challenge for a win. The Defender has proven itself as possibly the best base vehicle to modify for Challenge events. Its rugged build and off-road ability gives it a head start and with the wide range of off-the-shelf equipment available to modify a Defender, it makes it the ideal challenge truck. Challenge events are run at club and national level with events on both the UK and Europe. 

Sweden Offroad

Now in its 21st year, the Sweden Offroad Tour (SOT) is one of the world’s greatest 4x4 adventures and attracts around 400 vehicles from about twelve countries. Open to all makes of 4x4, the tour runs for around two weeks in July and takes entrants on a scenic tour of Sweden, including several off-road sites along the way. These sites are mostly on military land or dedicated off-road sites because driving off-road in Sweden is normally forbidden. The SOT allows you do as much off-roading as you want, plus you can choose to do the sections that you want as well, allowing you to truly customise your tour. The SOT offers you the opportunity to see and experience scenic Sweden with loads of off-roading thrown in. The only things you need to worry about are the elk and deer on the road.

Pay and Play Day

In days gone by if you weren’t in a club or did not want to take part in organised events, then there was little opportunity to go off-roading. Then someone had the idea to hire land and charge others to use it. So you could just turn up, pay the entry fee and have a full day off-roading. Since then the pay and play market has grown and in some cases become very professional, with highly regarded companies and individuals organising events. Today pay and play day sites range from disused quarries, old slag heaps, forests, open moorland and even idle industrial sites. As you would expect, some sites are more extreme than others, these better suited to Land Rovers with some degree of modification and protection. Others are aimed at standard unmodified vehicles. Before you head off to join a play and pay day have a look first to see if it’s suitable for your Defender. Also see what else is on offer, does it have facilities such as toilets, recovery, and power washing for example? Pay and play days offer a great way to enjoy your Defender off-road in a more informal environment. Search the internet for 4x4 pay and play days.

Photographs: Dave Barker, Dave Phillips, Drew Gibson

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