HomeBusinessThe Perfect Cheap and Cheerful Motorsport

The Perfect Cheap and Cheerful Motorsport

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The Perfect Cheap and Cheerful Motorsport
The Perfect Cheap and Cheerful Motorsport

“The Wacky Races cartoon from the late 1960s featured exciting competition, with characters like Mean Machine piloted by Dick Dastardly and Muttley taking on the mighty Turbo Terrific driven by Peter Perfect.”

Infinitely fun and ultimately harmless, it was a tempting yet unrealistic first taste of motorsport for budding petrol heads. But does any real-world equivalent come close to whimsical emotions?

Welcome to the seductive world of classic racing, off-road racing where anything goes… apart from four-wheel drive. That would be too easy.

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Conceived in the early 20th century, and grew in popularity during the 1920s and 1930s. Classic testing is effectively an off-road climbing event that has remained unchanged since its start.

Around 20-25 tests occur in the UK each year. It is organized by several different motor clubs that are part of the Association of Classic Trial Clubs (ACTC). “Classic” refers to the duration of the event itself rather than the age of the vehicles involved. It’s not about getting to the top of each climb. Because competitors must finish the entire event included in the final results. It’s also a bit like an endurance race, only with more bounces.

Participants tackle around 12 to 16 hills and use public roads to get between stages. The goal is simple: score the fewest points in an event by reaching the top of each hill.

The Perfect Cheap and Cheerful Motorsport

Points are recorded using scoreboards that run parallel to each hill, or “observed” sections as they are known in the test world, ranging from ’12’ at the starting line to ‘1’ at the finish line.

The Class 11 system means that many and varied cars can compete, from the Peugeot 205 to the Volkswagen Beetle, the Reliant Scimitar, and the Mazda MX-5. Although many of the cars in the lower classes are competitive. The ‘class 8’ racers are often the ones who must beat. Here, you’ll find bespoke, hand-built machines, as well as Volkswagen beach buggies and limited-production cars like the terrifyingly named Troll T6.

The stages themselves also come in many and varied forms, from deep, muddy climbs through dense, root-ridden forests to near-vertical walks along paths covered in loose rocks.

Event organizers will add an extra crumb of difficulty when implementing a “reset.” This means driving so far into a section, stopping, and then starting over. Reboots are often placed on the roots or swampy parts of the hill in a dick dastardly-style ploy to make it even more challenging. which I was reminded of on my first outing in over two years recently, with my VW Beetle-based buggy.

Our first climb of the Torbay Trial featured a tricky restart on a leaf-crusted hill that runs through some forests. Fortunately, a good bit of clutch control, and some rebounds to gain more traction (a common sight), took us to the top. We accumulated only a small number of points in the following sections and it wasn’t until the infamous Tipley climb that our luck began to wane.

The Perfect Cheap and Cheerful Motorsport

This time, a restart proved too challenging and, even with a lot of wheel spin and bounce, we gave up on a plume of smoke.

Reboots can often be a deciding factor in a classic test. After our unfortunate efforts at Tipley, we started accumulating points as we scored more sections.

We regained some confidence in Simms. Simms is a well-known section that challenges even the best prepared and most regular competitors. I judged the restart well and managed to get away on the slippery rock without any drama. More points were added to our scorecard after a silly mistake saw me stop while trying to skillfully maneuver to a restart. Another section surprised me for being too heavy.

The last climbs of the day were very entertaining, with a final race through a wooded area to conclude the race.

I ended up finishing towards the end of class 8. But the result did not detract from what had been a rewarding and refreshingly low-pressure motorsport day.

Classic testing is unique, testing not only the ability of the driver and passenger but also of the car. If you have a sturdy set of wheels out there, and the willingness to cover yourself in mud, it might as well be motorsport for you.

How to get involved?

The Perfect Cheap and Cheerful Motorsport

Classic Trial Club Association (ACTC) President Dave Haizelden offers some of the best advice on how to get into the sport.

How much does the average trial cost?

“Your average event costs around £50 to enter and is £20 for insurance. With fuel costs, it’s a couple of hundred pounds in total.”

Why should someone go to try?

“It’s the cheapest motorsport out there, other than a production car test in a field.

“You can also meet so many people from all over the country. The testing community is very friendly, and if you do an event and break up, other competitors will help you and take care of you.”

What’s the best way to get started?

“I would take an online look at the ACTC website as there is a lot of information there.

“Head to a local event and look because this will give you a proper idea of what classic testing is.”

Can I get involved in other ways?

“I would say go and marshal. Contact a club and help in a section because when you see cars going up the hill, you’ll want to try it yourself.”


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