Inside Revolution: Get Started in Cross Country
Cross Country is an off-road discipline that combines elements of Rallying and Trials, depending on the specific type of event. It takes place on off-road courses of up to 10 miles in length, with each competitor completing the course several times and being given penalties for exceeding the bogey (maximum) time.
Cross Country Trials is the best place to start out – there are higher level formats that are not so suitable for beginners. Trials feature courses, called sections, marked out by a series of gates and the further you get through each section without stopping or hitting the gate, the lower the penalty. This is what you need to get started.
Car and equipment
To take part in a novice or an entry-level event like a TYRO Trial, all you need is an SUV on a set of road tyres. If you want to give Road-Tax Vehicle (RTV) Trials a go, a 4×4 with a low-ratio gearbox is generally considered essential. For CCV or Modified Trials, you will typically need a specialist vehicle.
If you are taking part in TYRO and RTV Trials, you can usually drive your car to and from events, but for the more specialised CCV or Modified Trials the vehicles are typically trailered.
To participate, you will need a Motorsport UK Competition Licence and Club membership, a decent non-stretch tow rope – plus a packed lunch and something to drink.
Unless you encounter any issues on an event, the only real costs to consider are the entry fee – which is typically between £30 and £40 – and the cost of the fuel you use throughout the day or weekend.
There are a lot of local clubs all around the country, so unless you live in a very remote area you should be able to travel to and from a trial in a day. Some clubs arrange weekend events with basic camping on site which also adds to the social atmosphere. Many clubs have embraced online entries, often at a reduced rate, but still allow for on-site entries on the day.
The key to success is having the ability to read the ground and not to necessarily follow everyone else. Having the sense of feeling what your vehicle is telling you about traction and grip is vital.
There are various approved Cross Country or Off-Road Driving schools that will explain the driving essentials as well as your vehicle’s particular characteristics. Alternatively, you could attend a trial, observe the process, and engage with Club members who will help you find your feet. If you are even more confident, then you can just enter and have a go.
Improving and progressing can be made by observing fellow competitors and gaining experience. Progress is a relative process – some drivers will seek ever more challenging Trials sections, but as the sections become more demanding the investment, preparation and costs increase. For example, while you can compete at a TYRO Trial level with standard equipment, additional preparation – such as strengthened recovery points and Mud Terrain tyres – will be necessary for RTV Trials and CCV or Modified Trials will require Roll-Over Protection and many further modifications to cope with the severity of the sections.
The events typically involve around eight different Trials sections in a day, each of which is defined by a series of gates numbered in descending order starting at 12 or 10. How far you get through each section without hitting the gates or stopping is scored according to the furthest gate successfully negotiated.
The competition is tough. Although TYRO Trials use less challenging – and potentially less damaging – terrain, they place emphasis on spatial awareness. RTV trails introduce more challenging terrain and CCV or Modified Trials more challenging still. If you are a beginner looking to break the ice, attend a local trial and talk to club members. In trials, you win by scoring the least points! The aim is to complete each section without stopping or touching the gates. If you get all the way through, it is called a ‘clear’ and scores ‘zero’. The winner will usually get a trophy.
Cross Country Trialling is a Club sport and there are few Interclub events. The different ‘levels’ are, effectively, the different forms of Trial events.
Cross Country Trialling is a unique form of motorsport, but it can lead onto bigger things – all the way up to international events like the Dakar Rally. In terms of UK-based competition, it is a good grounding for those seeking to compete in faster, timed, events such as Competitive Safaris and Hill Rallies.
Clubs often run their own championships or leagues for RTV and CCV or Modified Trials, but TYRO Trials are typically run on an event-by-event basis to avoid placing unnecessary pressure on novices, especially those who do not hold a full Road Traffic Act (driving) licence.