Motorcycle marvel, Vanessa Ruck, defies all odds as she secures an impressive third place in her very first UK Defender Rally Series, driving a monstrous Bowler Defender vehicle. Just four days prior to this remarkable achievement, the 36-year-old had never even driven a rally car.
Also known as The Girl On A Bike, Vanessa recently announced her thrilling partnership with Bowler Motors as an official works driver for the 2023 UK rally series.
In this new venture, she will be racing the formidable Big Boy, a 2.0 300PS turbocharged Defender 90 rally car, while also driving a custom-built and impressively designed Defender 110 Fast Road for her everyday travel needs.
Despite being a newcomer to car racing, Vanessa’s extensive experience as an established motorcycle rider caught the attention of Bowler Motors.
Bowler, a specialised division of Land Rover, focuses on transforming the iconic Defender into a high-performance rally car capable of tackling the toughest terrains.
The modifications made to the vehicle include upgrading safety, strength, and suspension features, installing a robust roll cage, and providing advanced navigation equipment.
Vanessa explains: “The Defender is an aggressive all-terrain vehicle able to take on just about anything a driver throws at it.”
To cater to those wanting to start rally driving, Bowler created the unique Defender Rally Series. Vanessa enthusiastically signed up for the programme, which expertly guided her through the process from obtaining her rally driving licence to off-road practice at the renowned Land Rover Experience Centre.
During her intensive rally training, Vanessa was paired with experienced navigator Chris Cummings, who had won the prestigious UK Defender Rally Series the previous year.
Despite being new to car racing, Vanessa exceeded expectations by placing third in her category in Round 1 of the series. “I’m proud to have come in third in my category, and my lap times were getting shorter and shorter with each lap,” she says.
Vanessa firmly believes her background in motorcycle rally racing helped her seamlessly transition to car rally racing, as she has developed a keen ability to read terrain well and adapt to the differences between the two types of vehicles.
She is excited to see where her car rally journey takes her and hopes her inspiring story encourages others, particularly women, to try rally racing.
As Vanessa prepares for the challenging Morocco Desert Challenge race in the African desert, she also shares her experiences, adventures, and behind-the-scenes insights on her social media channels @thegirlonabike and her website www.thegirlonabike.com. Her partnership with Bowler Motors and foray into car racing is a remarkable story for motorsports enthusiasts, serving as a testament to the opportunities available for passionate and determined individuals looking to make their mark in the world of racing.
While Vanessa has earned a well-deserved reputation as a skilled motorcycle racer, her venture into car rally racing with Bowler Motors demonstrates the transferability of her talents and the potential for growth in new arenas.
Vanessa's origin story
Known as “The Girl on a Bike,” Vanessa’s journey to this triumphant moment has been far from easy. Nine years ago, she survived a devastating car accident that left her with a reconstructed hip and shoulder, and a long road to recovery filled with extensive physiotherapy.
On the 25th of March 2014, Vanessa’s life took a harrowing turn. After finishing a busy day at work, she embarked on an 8-mile bike ride to a wakeboarding lake. Anticipating an enjoyable evening of wakeboarding and a BBQ by the lake, she could not have foreseen the chain of events about to unfold.
Just a mile into her journey, while cycling along with the flow of traffic, Vanessa approached a green traffic light. Pedalling hard to maintain her momentum, she was suddenly confronted by an oncoming car that pulled out in front of her.
In a split second, time seemed to slow down. With no chance of avoiding the collision, Vanessa’s body crumpled against the car’s rear passenger panel. Her right shoulder bore the brunt of the 15 mph impact, and she collapsed onto the ground. In the aftermath, her pulse throbbed, and her surroundings blurred.
The incident marked the beginning of a challenging journey for Vanessa. Through resilience and determination, she would confront adversity and eventually find solace and strength in the world of motorsports.