Classic trials advice for front wheel drive cars
Front Wheel Drive (FWD) cars are readily available at affordable prices, providing a great way to get into MCC trials and to have a lot of fun with plenty of scope for modifications to improve performance and durability.
All sorts of FWD cars are entered, e.g. Ford Ka, Peugeot 206, Volkswagen Golf, Citroen Saxo and many others.
Two classes are open to a FWD car, class 1 and class O. The class you choose to enter is determined by your off-road experience and how your FWD car is prepared. See more about vehicle classes here.
"Class 1 is very competitive over a challenging course for driver and car."
Class R preparation
The trial route can be 180 to over 300 miles so prepare your car as if you’re going on a road trip. The additional items you’ll need to carry are as follows:
1. Fire extinguisher, readily accessible by the driver. The minimum requirement is for a hand-operated extinguisher or extinguishers having a total capacity of 1.75 litres AFFF. Alternatively, two extinguishers with a minimum capacity of 1 litre AFFF. Cars built after 1st January 2019 must have a minimum of 2.4 litres of AFFF or 2 kg of Dry Powder.
2. Approved oil spill kit capable of effectively absorbing minor spillage of up to 1.25 litres of all vehicle fluids.
3. Tape, marking the straight-ahead position on the steering wheel.
4. Map reading light for the passenger.
5. Competition number plates (see below).
6. Towing attachment at the front of the car. The entire attachment must be strong enough to sustain a snatch tow of the car, up a gradient.
7. Reversing light
Class O Preparation
In class O, many of the sections will be off road or on rough ground so the car should be prepared accordingly. In addition to the preparation for a class R vehicle, as a minimum, a class O car should have some under-body protection, sump guard and fuel tank guard. Additionally, perhaps protection for under floor items such as brake lines, fuel pipes, fuel filter, exhaust system, etc. Competitive class O drivers will take steps to make the car as robust as possible, raise the suspension, reduce the weight of the vehicle, and increase the engine’s performance.
Class 1 Preparation
Class 1 is very competitive over a challenging course for driver and car. The modifications described as above for a competitive class O car should be seen as an absolute minimum and you should also consider the following:
● Additional spare wheels
● Strengthened driveshafts and differential and/or limited slip differential if allowed
● Compressor for inflating tyres
For performance or endurance modifications to specific makes and models seek out fellow competitors on the MCC Facebook group.
Be aware that modifications to any vehicle may need to be advised to your insurance company if you intend to drive the modified car to and from a trial. Remember that all cars must at all times during the event be road legal.
The choice of tyres is determined by the Association of Classic Trials Clubs (ACTC); a list of the approved tyres can be downloaded from ACTC Car Tyre List. To simplify, the ACTC state that ‘In addition any summer tyre with a max tread gap not exceeding 8 mm may be used. Purely circumferential gaps can be ignored. A tyre will be deemed to have a block gap not exceeding 8 mm if, when fitted to a rim and inflated to 25 psi, an 8 mm round bar will stick in the gap when horizontal’.
The ACTC has a dedicated tyre officer; if you have any doubt refer to the ACTC.
The Peugeot 206 is a FWD car often seen at our events.
"Competition numbers must be fixed to the front, sides and back of the car... The method of fixing mustn’t spoil, or hide the figures."
Competition numbers must be fixed to the front, sides and back of the car so that they’re in an upright position on a firm flat surface. The method of fixing mustn’t spoil, or hide the figures. Ensure that they won’t fall off and can be seen clearly by officials and observers on the sections. If in doubt, have a look at examples in the photo gallery on the Club’s website. We provide a set of waterproof numbers. The dimensions of the competition numbers are 110 mm high x 150 mm wide.
Tools and spares
Carry only the necessary tools and spares. The more you carry, the heavier the car. Think ahead to when you are on the restart line attempting to pull away on a steep slope and looking for grip.
So what should you carry? For class R and for non-competitively minded class O, depending on your car and experience, a guide is as follows:
● Spare wheel/s
● Headlamp and tail bulbs
● Gaffer tape and tie wraps
● Selection of spanners and basic tools
● Good torch and spare batteries
● Head torch
● Pens pencils, highlighter pen
● Foot pump with pressure gauge
For competitively minded class O and for class 1, depending on your car and experience, a guide is as follows:
● As for class R above
● Puncture inflation aerosol, or sealant, e.g. Tyreweld, Slime
● Inner tubes (a lot of punctures are due to splits from running on low pressures and hitting a rock)
● Puncture outfit
● Tyre levers
● Low pressure tyre gauge capable of deflating tyres
● Chemical metal (for a punctured engine case)
● Spare hoses, cables, fluids, fuses
You can have as many passengers as the car was built to carry, but you must have at least one. Passengers in the front seat must be at least 12 years of age in a closed car and 14 years of age in an open car. Rear seat passengers can be as young as 2 years old.
Every passenger aged 18 and over must have club membership and an RS Clubman’s License (see above). A parent/guardian must complete a consent form for passengers under 18 years.
Take your car out for a shakedown drive at night in the condition the car will be at the start.. If you can, find what tyre pressures work for you on various off-road surfaces. Every driver has an opinion on pressures. Suffice to say; high pressures on mud will most likely have you with the wheels slipping; low pressures on rocks and boulders will most likely give you a compression puncture. Driving on the highway on under-inflated tyres is an offence so be prepared to re-inflate your tyres after each section.
At the event
Sleeping and eating
All MCC trials start and finish at service stations, pubs, hotels, attractions, etc. and each trial has at least one, often two scheduled stops enroute where hot food and drink will be available. Carrying some drinks and snacks in the car is always advisable as MCC trials are as much about endurance as climbing each hill or section.
Arrive at least an hour before your start time; earlier is even better. You want enough time to get your car scrutineered, sign in and relax before the off. If you’ve driven an open car to the start in rain, or cold conditions, you might want time to warm up. The scrutineer will visually check lights, wipers, fire extinguisher, oil spill kit, general mechanical appearance and the MoT certificate.
Ensure that you don’t forget to sign on at the start. No signature means you’re regarded as not competing so no award. No signature also means no MCC’s RTA insurance, meaning you could be in financial and legal difficulties if involved in an incident.
At the end of the trial, you’ll have driven for 12 to14 hours and possibly be very tired so, depending on how far you have to travel home, or unless you’ve got someone to drive you and your car home, you’ll need to consider overnight accommodation.
Book early to make sure you get a room. The Club holds the Club Supper on the Saturday evening of the Exeter Trial. It’s well worth attending; an opportunity for good food, good company and new friends.