Running up that hill

Motorsport is, as you may not be aware of, a very diverse form of sport. Formula 1 still reigns supreme as the pinnacle of motor racing but what if we want to get involved in Motorsport? Where can the petrol-heads gather to take part in a thrilling form of Motorsport that’s open to all people? Allow me to fill you in on the world of Classic Trials.

Classic Trials began in the 1930’s and have been running ever since. They take place all over the country from Cornwall to Durham and events often run between September and May. Classic Trials aren’t just exclusive to cars, motorbikes can also take part in the events. Even though they have been running for decades Classic Trials are often unheard-of even to those who are interested in Motorsport.

Class 8 trials car

This rare form of Motorsport is effectively off-road hill climb events. On a Trial there are 10-20 hills or observed sections as they are commonly known, that the driver (and his passenger) must complete. Along the side of every section there are markers with a number on them. The bottom marker starts at 12 and the final marker ends with the number 1. The aim is to score the least amount of points, therefore the further you get up a section the lower your score and if you complete a section fully you get zero.
The stages are very different and are often made more challenging by deep mud and loose rocks which makes finding traction and clearing a section ever more difficult. Sections may also feature a restart where you go so far up a section, stop and then start again. There are also two-timed stages which involve some reversing and can sometimes determine the winner if two cars are level on points at the end of an event.

Classic Trials also feature an array of different cars due to there being multiple vehicle classes. Each class has very specific rules in order to compete. Class 8 for example, is for non-production cars that are rear engine and rear-wheel-drive, whereas class 1 is for front engine, front-wheel-drive production cars. Class 8 is perhaps one of the most competitive classes as it has very different cars from bespoke, hand-built machines to VW beach buggies.

A bit of Snow never stops a Classic Trial – Northern Trial in the Lake District

My first experience of a Classic Trial was in January 2016 where I was a passenger for friend who competed in class 8. At first, I was unsure whether trials would be that thrilling seeing as they are hill-climbs that don’t involve fast driving, but after the first section I was proved wrong. Not only do you appreciate the cars ability to clamber up the sections you understand how challenging the hills are, and how rewarding it can be when you reach the top of an almost impossible incline. Furthermore, because there are over 25 trials held each year you get to compete on a wide range of sections which throw up different challenges along the way.

Trials are also a good way to begin your journey into Motorsport as they are not too expensive to compete in. Yes, buying your first car and making the necessary conversions to make it ready for trialling can set you back a few thousand pounds or less, but that is dependent on the car you buy and the class you wish to compete in. Class 1 cars are often feature old hatchbacks that don’t really break the bank account, whereas the Class 7 and 8 cars can often be the pricier choice, especially if they have won trials in the past.

VW buggy edited
A VW buggy tackles a section on the Clee Hills Trial in Shropshire

The other good thing about Classic Trials is that you get to take part in a form of Motorsport and join a new community of motoring enthusiasts. You get to meet like-minded people that also share your interest in cars and Motorsport. Furthermore, it isn’t just an individual sport, you must have a passenger to be able to compete on a Trial no matter what your class. Passengers are an important part of Trialling as they can adjust their weight, or “bounce” in the car to help the back wheels dig in and gain traction.

Although unique, Classic Trials are not only rewarding, but highly entertaining. The best way to truly understand them is to get out there and have a go. It doesn’t matter what car you drive, nor does it matter how skilled you are as a driver. The more trials you take part in the more experience you gain and before you know it you’ll be challenging for a class win…perhaps after buying some new shock absorbers and tyres.




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