Inside Revolution: Get Started in… Trialling

Wednesday 08 May 2024

Trials are a unique and extremely accessible form of motorsport, making them an ideal entry point for newcomers. Cars run at low speeds, but the steep and slippery hillsides on which they compete ensure there is no shortage of challenge, adrenaline, and excitement.

It is all about how far you go, not how fast you get there, and there are three different categories: Car Trials, for Production type road cars – everything from Austin 7 to Nissan
Micra; Classic Trials, for cars dating back to the 1930s; and Sporting Trials, for specially designed Trials cars. This is what you need to get started.

What is the format?
Trials events typically involve around five or six tests, each running up a slippery hill. The course is marked out using canes or posts and the aim is to drive as far as possible
through the gates without stopping, using the terrain to your advantage. Assistance can be provided by a passenger, who can move around in the car and / or bounce to gain traction. The course is often changed through the day to maintain the challenge and reduce the impact on the environment.

How do you win and what are the prizes?
Scoring is based on penalty points. The further a driver gets up a section, the lower their penalty score will be, and the driver with the lowest score of the day is the winner. In each
category, there are three driver classes: red for experts, blue for intermediates, and rookie for novices. Awards are usually given for the overall category winner, the best in class, and best Junior.

How tough is the competition?
At Club level, the competition is relaxed, friendly and welcoming, but it becomes more intense in the national championships. The Association of Classic Trials Clubs (ACTC),
The British Trial and Rally Drivers Association (BTRDA) and Motorsport UK Championships are for more experienced competitors, however, they are not exclusive and after
gaining some experience at Club level, competitors are welcome to graduate to the national championships.

What makes a good car?
A small car with good weight distribution and good traction is generally the best option to choose for a standard Car Trial or Classic Trial vehicle. Front-wheel-drive is most popular, although there are also classes for rear-wheel-drive and sports cars. A good maintenance history is vital for reliability. Sporting Trials cars are more complicated and can either have independent rear suspension (IRS) or a LIVE axle, with classes for both. They also have ‘fiddle’ brakes, in which individual brakes on either side of the car are controlled by individual levers, enabling a form of skid steer, and supporting torque transfer between the driving wheels.

Can you drive to events?
Car Trials and Classic Trials vehicles can be driven to an event if they meet road legal requirements, although this does risk logistical problems if anything goes wrong enroute
or on the course. Sporting Trials cars are not road legal, so must be taken to the event on a trailer.

What other kit do you need?
The most important piece of ‘kit’ is your passenger, who is often vital for getting traction on the trickier sections. Tyre pressures are also key to grip, so an electric tyre pump is
helpful to allow you to adjust tyre pressures as conditions vary through the day. Lower pressures give greater grip, but the rules dictate limits based on the car, size of engine and
class, so it is also important to monitor the pressures and stay within the regulations.

What does a car cost?
A vehicle suitable for Car Trials can be acquired for a just few hundred pounds, and some competitors even use their everyday road car if the venue is suitable. The more specialist
Sporting Trials vehicles can cost as little as £1,500, but a good LIVE axle car will range from £4,000-10,000. As the events are short and run on soft ground, fuel costs are low, and tyres do not tend to wear out quicky. Many competitors invest in a set of specialist tyres to provide better grip. These may have to be from an approved list or as specified in the
event Supplementary Regulations. The main cost for those competing nationally is travelling to and from events.

How far do you have to go to compete and what can the costs be?
Entry fees for Trials are around £30-£40 per event. Competitors will also need to join their local club (around £20 per year) and apply for a free RS Clubman Licence from Motorsport UK. Many motor Clubs run Car Trials, so often people do not have to travel too far to compete. A list of Clubs and contacts can be found on Motorsport UK’s website. To compete in national championships, competitors can look up the calendar of events on the Motorsport UK website.

What makes a good driver in this discipline?
Good traction is the most important element and the key to achieving this is patience, preparation, and attention to detail. The most successful drivers observe the ground conditions before their first run to work out the best line and where to apply the power. Many competitors also watch others to pick up tips on how the ground is performing, and it is also a good idea to check sections repeatedly as conditions change through the day.

What is the most important skill?
Having a good sensitivity of control on the accelerator pedal, because the cars typically have more power than grip. Too much power will spin the wheels, but sometimes a technique called ‘trickling’ is used, which involves a full blast of power followed by a delicate touch. A good knowledge of which gear to choose is also vital, while those in Sporting trials will need to become expert in the use of ‘fiddle’ brakes.

The BTRDA offers two driver introduction and training days each year, in spring and autumn. Alternatively, you can simply go and compete in local events. Competitors are very
welcoming and will help ease any early nerves, and some Clubs, such as Woolbridge MC, have loan cars that can be provided to allow people to try an event without having to
bring their own vehicle.

How do you improve and progress?
Practice makes perfect! The more time you have on the hill, the better you will learn how to manage all the different unique challenges. You can also learn a lot from your fellow
competitors, who are often keen to encourage people into the discipline and will generally be happy to offer advice to newcomers.

Are there many Clubs that run these events?
Last year, 48 different Clubs organised some form of Trials event and 161 permits were issued – 82 for Car Trials, 20 for Classic Trials and 59 for Sporting Trials. These events amassed a total of 4,632 entries.

There are several clubs across the UK organising regular Car Trials that are open to newcomers as part of the StreetCar programme. To find a club or an event near you, or to
volunteer to support your local Trials events, register HERE and a member of the StreetCar team will be in touch to match you with a StreetCar-accredited club.

How does a beginner ‘break the ice’?
Find the nearest Club to you that runs a Car Trial and go as a spectator. Talk to the organisers and competitors and watch the action to see if it is something you would like to
get involved with. If it is, taking part in a training day, or attending a StreetCar Taster Event before your first event can be invaluable.

Some people start by being a passenger – and it is worth checking with event organisers as drivers are often actively looking for passengers on events. As a passenger, you can get
a feel for the experience before making the commitment to get behind the wheel. However, if you are confident, you can just enter an event and get stuck in.

What championships are there?
Most Clubs have their own Championships, so you can compete with fellow club members and sometimes others who enter from associated Clubs. The regional associations also run several Championships with a wider range of events, while the Motorsport UK Championships run at a national level.

Is it a stepping-stone towards other forms of motorsport?
Car Trials and Classic Trials are a good learning ground for car control and many drivers will go on to compete in Rallying, Hill Climbing and, in some cases, Circuit Racing. Sporting Trials is a little different, as it is unique. However, the skills learned would help with any form of off-road motorsport.