Freelander frolics!


The British Off-road Championship is a national event run over 10 rounds in 5 locations across the country.  With many different types of vehicle competing they are spilt into standard production, super production and specials – broadly speaking!

The overall position is determined by the teams 7 best scores from the year’s events.  7 must be completed in total.  There were around 30 entries this year.



The Freelander we race is a 1997 1.8 Petrol pre – production ‘R’ reg.  Racing in standard production means that you are allowed to do very little to the car.  The ABS, traction control and hill descent are all disconnected.



We have had a bit of a play and have replaced the front with a 2004 bumper and headlights (courtesy of Bearmach)

The sunroof has been replaced with aluminium for safety.

We have removed the standard mud guards and replaced with plastic.

We have a battery cut-off on the passenger side wing – this will be changed to an electronic system to comply with 2005 FIA regs.


The inside of the car is stripped of rear seats – but must retain interior trim items such as headline and dashboard / door cards.  We have been allowed to remove the carpet due to the fact that the car lives outside and gets wet. 

The front seats are replaced with lightweight Corbeau racing bucket seats and 5 point harnesses.

The rear window is replaced with Perspex as we must have high level brake lights - these are fixed into the Perspex.

There is a full racing spec Safety Devices FIA Roll cage fitted, this includes bracing along the door areas and strut bracing. 

Janspeed  - provided a bespoke exhaust system.  This is utilising the original down pipes as per rules, and the cat is of the same dimensions – but is a racing cat. 

The exhaust also has 2 small boxes – as it must remain as the original number – but these are small and the whole system is bolted securely and protected by the belly protection and exhaust guard.

Real benefit of this – the marshals say they can now hear us coming – previously we had the p$ss taken as they reckoned we were driving an electric car it was so quiet!


A great deal of investigation 12 months ago brought to light the fact that no-one makes an uprated suspension for Freelanders.  Since then Monroe and Old Man Emu have brought systems out, however neither of these are adjustable or strong enough for our racing needs – although they could be raced on.

We spoke to Ohlins and also to M-Sport – the company responsible for the development of the LR racing Freelander.  Ohlins wanted serious money for the development of a racing strut – however M-sport pointed out that the Freelander McPherson strut mirrored the ford focus strut.  They were using Reiger, and had a reconditioned set we could buy.  Knowing the Mitsubishi team used Reiger and spoke highly of them – we decided this was the way to go, despite the cost being almost as much as we paid for the car!! 



A visit to the Autosport show in January 2004 introduced us to PTP (recommended by scrutineer Robbo).  They are part of the Trinity group and were hugely helpful.  We were very restricted to what we could reasonably do.  The regs state that the valves must remain standard, as with pistons and porting of the head is not permitted.  The throttle body must not be enlarged.  After discussions with Robbo and PTP, we went for a 140 head kit – as this was all that we could do.   An ITG air filter has also been fitted.

Generally we run on the rev limiter at 7500 revs, there is an odd pattern to the power and it livens up at around 6000revs.  In an ideal word we would drop the gearing much of the time we are running in 1st / 2nd and could do with more gears.



We run factory standard 5 spoke 16” alloys (we are always looking for more if you find any cheap ones : )

We had to put 25mm spacers on to allow for the suspension.


A control tyre is in place, a Goodyear MTR.  We run 225/ 75 / 16. 

Steering Wheel

We have replaced with an OMP steering wheel and a Honda civic hub


Is Peltor which is great as we don’t have to shout too much at each other!



Have been uprated to Polybush red – this has considerably firmed up the ride to match the suspension and they have done well over the season with no problems.

The belly guard was fabricated for us by a friend - Mark McFarlane using the original Safety Devices framework, we started with 6mm aluminium  but uprated this to 10mm  high grade aluminium as we put a socking great bend in it!



Round 1 + 2 Radnor Forest – Wales

A fantastic fast site with horrendous pits!  This site is used for the WRC rally GB and is characterised by its firebreaks and scary drop offs.  Being the first round we weren’t sure what to expect but everyone told us how fast it was.  We arrived on the Friday – to find that the pits consisted of parking at the side of the gravel track – not ideal in a camper with trailer!  As it was raining constantly the mud was also deep and unforgiving!

We walked part of the course, the first hundred metres were fine – then a cut up through the forest looked rough and dark – you couldn’t see much at all and while racing it rutted out really fast so we spent most of our 16 laps over the weekend, plonking the freebie into the ruts and relying on the belly guard to get us through!

The gravel straights were interspersed with the firebreaks which dropped you off down into the next gravel section – one of which you decelerated from about 90mph to 0 and dropped about 10 ft straight down a hill with a huge washout on one side (definitely a scary one for the co-drivers!) Helpfully the organisers decided to put a jump in over night, for the TV cameras!  Closely resembling a ski-jump it caught a few out despite the pre-start briefing!

With quite a few vehicles having close encounters with trees, a couple of rolls and an engine fire – we thought we did quite well – only blowing the seals in the steering rack and losing the water bottle cap.  Due to the fact that the course was so slippy we also had to wait for the brakes to stop glowing between laps. 

Our times improved over the weekend as we got used to the new suspension and engine tweaks- and got braver on the straights!  With 12th overall we were pleased with the result.



Round 3+4 Ellesmere

These rounds are held near the Camel Trophy museum in Shropshire – so it was good to catch up Mike Robson while we were there!

This course was to be quite punishing with open grassland, woodland tracks, and an adapted motocross track to contend with.  The grass was slippy, the woods rough and the motocross track awful for us!  Basically a washboard track which was a couple of foot deep with soft kind of mulch material – yump after yump after yump.  Great if you have the power and long suspension travel to go over it – which looks very good in the footage we have seen of the buggies – not ideal for the production class cars.

Saturday went ok with little trouble and OK times.  We replaced the left hand ball joint at the end of the day as that went – but generally it was going quite well….. Famous last words.  We were luckier than some as the Bartlett’s Mitsubishi Pajero had an altercation with a big oak tree – 1st lap – and looked a bit banana shaped and not quite as watertight after that!  Not ideal when your auto box is cooled through your radiator.  They did soldier on though using a ridiculous amount of ATF and water, only giving up after hitting another tree – they came to the next event in a Bowler, having scrapped the car!!

First lap Sunday morning –and the wash board had been re-raked.  Vic said – your driving well today – and then about 2 seconds later, we broke it……we managed to finish the lap with the gear stick just poking out the hole – and flapping around, super.

We had snapped the IRD unit housing clean in half and when we stuck it on the ramps of the trailer, we were able to pull the little bits of gear out.  Hmmm – so the decision was made after a quick consult with the guys from Trinity (who were wonderful all season) to just go out without it attached and see what would happen.  It would have been fine if there wasn’t a bit of a steep hill with really sticky clay coming out of the woods – not ideal without front wheel drive – so a quick trip back to the pits by the quickest method – a rope – was in order.  Day Over.

A couple of interesting moments by other competitors – one managed to roll, in the middle of a perfectly flat field on a straight – in front of a cameraman – who was looking the other way.  Ryan Cooke in his gorgeous 100” TMC Land Rover Special ended up doing a spectacular roll whilst being urged by his co-driver to push it a bit harder.  After a quick re-build (mostly using a sledgehammer) and the removal of the windscreen Robbo the scrutineer let them back out – in record time.  Second event – second roll for Ryan who was to end up 3rd in the championship, and win the Driffield stage with some cracking driving. 

A 20th overall position was disappointing – but not a huge surprise! (And not last!)


 Round 5+6 Forest O’er Lockerbie

This was the Scottish leg of the championship.  As we drove in the darkness having done an overnight run up from Southampton we thought we would never get there as we went further and further into the mountains!  We just parked up and passed out when we got there at 4am. 

A beautiful view of the Scottish countryside greeted us in the morning, much to the delight of the dogs who were off investigating as soon as we got up.  Caroline and Steve were on their way so we set about looking for a good spot that wasn’t subject to the gale force winds!  Having gotten settled the boys set off to walk the course.  Again quite a fast track but really slippy and with no allowance if you ventured off piste.   A few chicanes were in place to keep the speed down a bit and there was quite a lot of heavy ruts.  This was most noticeable towards the end and the Clerk of the Course Selwyn Kendrick was keeping a fairly close eye on how the Freelander was getting on in this part – as we had the least power  / ground clearance etc.  We actually did ok – as Tim Oliver and Bill Murray will vouch.  But on our last lap we warned that it was becoming quite dangerous as it was throwing the vehicle all over the place and you had really little control but had to nail it to get through.  The next 3 vehicles either rolled or got stuck (Ok we were quite smug about that and did make sure they knew a Freelander had gone through before them : )

For this reason they took the last part of the course away on Sunday as it was dangerous.  Our friend Steve also managed a pirouette and roll on the Saturday – but we got him on his way again with a bit of gaffer tape and a hammer (funny how it’s always a hammer!)

Saturday night was great fun with an impromptu birthday party for Vic – and a few beers!  This was after the drivers briefing in the morning where Caroline had organised a cake – and everyone sang happy birthday – much to her HUGE embarrassment!

Sunday first lap was going well, until a comment from the co-driver – 10 metres before the finish line – and beside a big water splash – those immortal words “Give it some” resulted in a broken engine mount (Juls also blamed this entirely on Vic)

So – what should we do, we certainly didn’t want to lose another round.  So, three rackets straps and a breaker bar later – suspending the engine from the front valance to the strut brace – we were off!  Some horrific clunking and a bit of a concern as to just how damage we were doing –we still managed some decent times and a finish.

17th was quite pleasing with a dodgy engine mount, the 4.6 90 we like to compete against was 19th, with some other quality vehicles.


Picture copyright

 Round 7+8 Eridge Park, Tunbridge Wells

A local event, traditionally a fast track, we were looking to put in a serious result as Julian won the clubman section in 2003.

We were also being filmed for Meridian TV so were quite keen not to break it!  Hunters Land Rover in Southampton (cheers Bob) had been kind enough to check over the truck fully for us prior to this event – and had replaced the broken engine mount.  Great – we thought – that should last as the last one did a whole season.  However we were to have another frustrating weekend.  Saturdays lap times were getting quicker and a bit of tuition from the Mitsubishi co-driver, Chris Eade, had Jules taking 45 seconds off his time (clearly his normal co-driver is rubbish…)

This was a superb course, there were long hill climbs where the freebie was struggling a wee bit, but the downhill sections were flat out with serious sideways bits round the corners.  The bumps we were getting better at and hitting hard as she seems to like it, the faster we go the smoother it gets.

Our “unbreakable” shock broke Saturday morning second lap – great – however – Trinity to the rescue and it was welded back together within an inch of its life!!  Using a 7 ½  ton trolley jack and a 7 ½  tonne lorry to push it back into shape J

Off we went again and it was going great ….. We were flying….. Until Sunday first lap…when the engine mount went again.  Some swearing and shouting later, and the engine was strapped back into place – having tried various things to no avail.  It has now been web welded as we are not allowed to change the position or number of mounts and it is definitely a weak spot, it actually broke differently this time – much to our disappointment.  Again we struggled a finish in round 8 – having finished well up the order in round 7.  But everyone had a difficult weekend and we were not alone in our problems – finishing 11th overall, many did not finish at all.


Round 9+10 Driffield

How worried were we about this!  At Tunbridge all everyone said was…. It’s a car killer…. You’ll have to rebuild it afterwards – still – what the hey – it’s the last round!!!!  Prior to the event we jacked her up all round – 30mm.  The suspension was also set soft.  The landscape at Driffield has been described as Lunar – a tank training ground it was deceptive – it looked great in places – for those in the know – think Sidbury at its very worst : )

Saturday we took it fairly easy needing a finish for points.  The most entertaining part being the flying!  We took off so many times, and a couple of the big hills were soooo scary as you couldn’t see the other side at all, leaving the top going fast and then landing 2/3rds of the way down – hoping that you wouldn’t hit the ruts or the side of the track!  Colin in the Mitsubishi took a nose dive early on and removed his bumper and rad grill – no matter, we saw the bumper by a big puddle / hole and he stole the grill off his tow vehicle, well when needs must!

We were ok – laughing a lot when Steve came in looking white as a sheet – his co-driver leapt out of the car going WOW that was brilliant…. As it happens Steve took off over a big hump – the size of a house – a touch too fast – and landed at the bottom, about 30 foot away from where he took off!  “I thought I was going to die…” said Steve, “I think I’ve had a heart attack”  - “Check his pants” came the good natured response! 

Sunday we decided to thrash our little Freebie to see what we could learn – and it goes well!  It’s much stronger than we ever thought.  Have a look at the caution over crest website for some good pics of Driffield – they do give a good impression of its capability.

We took minute after minute off our times – 14:32 our best time on Saturday, Sunday started with a 14:03 and ended with a 12:25.  To put that into perspective – the Bowler Wildcat only beat is over the weekend by 3 minutes.  The 4.6 90 – never made it into the 12 minute zone.  We were hugely surprised, as was the TMC co-driver who jumped in for a lap!

A season finish of 11th overall was great – and we learnt an awful lot on the way.


The camaraderie is definitely such a big part of the racing, Colin Read (Mitsubishi) Tony Walmsley (90), Steve and ourselves generally ended up camping together and supplying each other with wine and beer (and chocolate) over these long weekends.  It’s always a bit of a shame when the season comes to an end as you really do miss everyone!

So what are we going to do next year?  Enjoy it first and foremost – secondly carry a spare IRD (Vic will shout if I don’t), and thirdly push it a bit harder.  We would love to get into the top 6, as we think the Freelander is more than capable. 


If anyone else out there fancies converting their vehicle – give us a call, we are always happy to help!


Here is the freelander racing this season with Vicky at the helm

And at Drifeild


Extras added to the Freelander


In this months in Lrm there are more pictures and details on the freelander

      Cover pic                Part of the article   

And a special thanks to our sponsors



                      Hunter Land Rover (Southampton)



Back to Julians Page