When it comes to off-road driving, there are so many different ways to challenge yourself and your truck. The off-road and extreme 4x4 events held every year provide an organized way to experience the thrill of hardcore driving, but sometimes there's nothing like a simple ride with only you, your 4x4 and the great unknown out in front of you.
Offroad trials are pretty popular in Europe and you won't find similar races in US. They are not as large as events like Jeep Jamboree or the Human Race, but they're still fun to watch and - if you get the chance - a great way to pit yourself against some wild terrain!
RTV trials are for Road-Taxed Vehicles, meaning trucks that are legally allowed to drive on the street. They cannot be too modified or custom-made and any modifications made to the vehicle have to be road-legal. Most have modified suspensions, road-legal off-road tires, raised air intakes, recovery winches, and other modifications that give them more power off the road, but which are still legal for road driving. They're basically the standard vehicles with a few modifications added.
The trials aren't designed to damage the car, and the driving is usually fairly slow and stately - no more than walking pace usually. The courses are laid out so that drivers don't damage their vehicles greatly, at least if the proper off-road driving techniques are used. There are plenty of water obstacles, steep slopes, side slopes, ruts and hazards that can damage the vehicle if drivers aren't careful - so it's a challenge!
RTV trials are organized by dedicated trialing organizations - like The Association of Land Rover club in the UK - and they're usually held in rural locations - farmland, old quarries, or even off-road driving centers. There are between 10 and 12 "gates" for the drivers to navigate through. Each gate just wide enough for the trucks to pass through. The 4x4's tackle the course one at a time, trying to pass through the gates. They have to make it through all of the gates, and the driver that passes through the most gates is declared the winner.
The emphasis of these trials is on ground-reading and driving skill rather than vehicle durability.
Cross-country vehicle trials are open to RTVs, but they're also open to non-road-legal trucks as well. The terrain used for these trials is much tougher and harder on the 4x4s than in the RTV trials, and the pace of the trials is usually a lot faster - as speed is required to get over some of the more challenging obstacles. The trial is designed to avoid vehicle damage, but the inevitable mistakes always result in damage to the trucks.
Standard vehicles are not expected to complete a CCV course. Some modifications are required in order to make it through the tough obstacles. A large number of the trucks competing in these CCV trials are non-road-legal, as they are highly modified in order to withstand the tough conditions of the course.
The design of the course is similar to that of an RTV trial, with the same layout of gates and similar rules. The difference between the two courses is the speed required to overcome a lot of the obstacles, and thus the need for 4x4 lifting and modification is increased. Most of the trucks have bigger tires and very high ground clearance, an engine that could pull a small train, very limited bodywork and the best approach and departure angles possible. Many CCV trucks are actually modified Range Rovers, as the Land Rover 90s and the Series I Discovery vehicles are two of the best for this type of trial.
There are safety regulations that must be met, such as the inclusion of a roll cage, fuel tank safety standards, and 4-point harnesses - to name a few.
Punch and winch challenges are trials that are laid out on courses similar to RTV and CCV courses, but the goal of the challenge is to mark scorecards with as many "punches" as possible -- or to pass through as many of the gates as they can. The punches are often in challenging locations, such as on the face of a cliff or in a lake. The cards are secured to the motor of the vehicle, and the goal is to bring the motor as close to the punch as possible in order to score.
The reason they're called "punch and winch" challenges is because a winch is one of the most vital parts of the CCV modifications. 4x4s often have to winch up steep or nearly-vertical walls to punch their scorecard.
The standard CCV trucks were once used for these challenges, but the open-top vehicles often didn't provide enough protection from inclement weather and the various obstacles. Most Punch and Winch trucks are usually hard-top 4x4s - like the Land Rover Defender.
The Punch Card Trial -- This is a freestyle off-road trial, where drivers just have to drive up, around, over and through obstacles to punch their scorecards. Usually a cane is placed around the off-road site and drivers have to get their truck close enough to punch the cards. There are no gates to pass through, so it's up to each driver to read the terrain and determine the best angle for the approach. It's more focused on the thrill of the off-road driving rather than more serious competition - but it's still plenty competitive!
The Tyro Trial -- Tyro is a Greek word, and it means 'new recruit'. The Tyro trials are made for newbies to the world of off-roading and rock crawling, so they are basic, simple off-road events that risk little damage to the car. The course is made with the standard trial gates, and it does require skill to pass through each of the gates. However, there is little risk of the trucks being damaged and only standard 4x4s are used - no modifications allowed.
So many ways to challenge yourself!
Which is your ideal offroad trial?
Nordic Trial Open - Brokelandsheia - This is the first time I attend an off-road trial. Many of the Nordic top drivers are gathered here today to compete. It's really fun to compare it to the Formula Off Road and see the similarities as well as the differences.
Christmas Humanitarian Trial Run - I found that December brings the most interesting things of all the months. This year it brought interesting and unexpected activities in the off road scene of Romania. An unprecedented fund raising event took place on the outskirts of the capital city of Bucharest, involving a Christmas Off Road Trial aimed at collecting money for needy families around the county.
Discovery Off Road Trial - By now everyone knows the hit show One car too far on the documentary channel. Those two guys take everything about off road and make it easy to be understood and put into practice, dealing with real life situations that the regular off roader would encounter.
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