Trialing Is Like Rallying for Pre-War Cars, and It’s a Spectacle To Behold
For ancient cars that just aren't ready to retire.
It can be fun to see ancient cars in museums, but it’s a lot cooler to watch them rip and claw their way over ridiculous dirt courses.
I generally consider myself to have at least a teeny amount of knowledge about every form of automotive competition. From dirt oval racing to high-level, modern formula racing, there aren’t many corners of this expansive realm that remain untouched by my curiosity. Though actually, there’s still an awful lot I haven’t read up on and had a chance to exclaim “wow!” over… out loud, by myself, and with luckily nobody around to explain my reasoning to. Also, I don’t mean to sound like a know-it-all, I’m just generally stoked on motorsports.
Trialing is one of my new favorite things to peruse on YouTube, because just look at it!
Trialing isn’t related to what we know in North America as time trials. Which by the way is confusing, because it could either be referring to a competitive time attack event, depending on who’s hosting the event.
Anyway, the root of trialing as it’s depicted here is based on the notion of putting a car through its paces during development. Particularly, when British manufacturers would develop automobiles before WWII. They’d take them up steep hills, rip them through muddy roads, and generally just put them to the test. Eventually, this evolved into a form of motorsport that’s a cross between rally racing, hill climb, and general off-road racing. Oh, and vintage racing, of course, as it appears that its biggest (and possibly only?) sanctioning body in the United Kingdom is the Vintage Sports-Car Club (VSCC).
When I first happened upon trialing via this tweet, my first thought was “I don’t know what these cars are, all I know is they’re quite old and this looks like a shit-load of fun.”
This really proves my point that indeed there are many motorsports stones unturned in my brain. It looks like trialing is open to any and all pre-war manufacturers and their various models, of which I must admit I know nothing about. But that’s OK, because the basis of motorsports enthusiasm isn’t knowing all the fine details, specs, figures, etc., but simply thinking it’s, well, just interesting.
Not only are the cars rad, but so are the rules and techniques. The rules seem super simple, per VSCC’s site: “Each competitor will receive a score between 0 and 25 for each Section depending on how far they travel up the hill, or not as the case may be! The score is determined by the course markers running up the right-hand side of the Section, with the competitor receiving a score for the last marker they successfully pass. Each Section is set out with number 1 at the bottom and number 25 at the top. All of the scores for each Section are combined at the end of the day, and the Competitor with the highest combined score wins.”
I like that “-to which course marker can each competitor make it up the hill” idea. From there, the rules continue to appear very simple and straightforward. “Our Trials are divided into Classes for short and long wheelbase and then sub-divided into ‘Standard’ cars and ‘Modified and Special’ cars.”
Competitors must carry passengers who are called ‘Bouncers’. Bouncing gives the car more grip and helps it to travel further up the hill and score more points. These passengers do not need to be members of the VSCC and is an ideal way to involve friends and family in Club motor sport.”
That latter bit is a fun aspect of technique: a passenger is required to bounce the vehicle to help it scale the muddy, rocky, wet, grassy, or all-of-the-above hill. This is also a main reason why trialing is so fun to watch, it looks so whimsical compared to pretty much any other form of motorsport besides LeMons!
There are so many excellent trialing clips on YouTube, I highly recommend spending a rousing afternoon becoming well-versed in it. There’s also some excellent POV footage, and unsurprisingly, it makes for excellent photos to boot.