Land Rover Trials

Hints and Tips for driving in your first Land Rover Trial

This section is a guide for new members and also for existing members (especially those from the camping, caravanning and green laning section) who want some ‘real’ excitement in their lives.

The vast majority of Land Rovers used in RTV and CCV off-road events are either Land Rover 90's, 110's and Discovery 1's and 2’s with the odd Range Rover Classic and Series 2 & 3 here and there.  There is always a possibility that you could damage your vehicle and for this reason the more expensive Range Rovers and later Disco's are usually consigned to Tyro's, Caravanning Rallies and Green Laning.

The ALRC places vehicles of different wheelbases and design into separate competing groups. This makes the task of going home with a trophy just that little bit easier, and much fairer, as you only compete directly with vehicles of a similar type to your own.

These hints and tips mainly relate to Land Rover 90's, 110's and Disco's with manual gearboxes, full time four wheel drive and manual control over the centre differential lock, although much is applicable to off road driving in all models.

Getting ready

Make sure your vehicle is safe and legal.  Your vehicle will receive a basic safety check by our club scrutineer before you take part however it is 'your' responsibility to ensure your vehicle is up to the mark.  In particular pay attention to seat belts and harnesses, steering and suspension shock absorbers, track rods and ball joints, brakes and hand-brake. Check all oil and fluid levels and make sure you have enough fuel for the event. Don't forget to check your fire extinguisher, tow rope and tyre pressures. Leave no loose objects inside your vehicle. If you bring tools, picnics or spare boots make sure they are firmly restrained inside your vehicle. Those large plastic storage boxes are great for this. You don’t want to be hit on the back of the head with a first aid kit.

Get to the Event on Time

Check the website or club magazine to make sure you have the right time and date for the event.  Follow the directions and aim to get there ‘early’. The club scrutineer has a tough job as it is, without people turning up late. If you’re late – they don’t have to wait.

Listen to the Clerk of Course's briefing

The Clerk of Course will brief the marshals and drivers about the course and point out any dangers. Listen carefully and take note. If you’re a new member or just new to trialling then make sure he knows this!

Walk the course

You will be given time to walk each section of the course. Don't waste this time chatting or drinking coffee. There will be a lot of flags and canes and the main problem you will face is getting lost (not literally) but in not knowing which gate to drive to next.

Start off towards or at the back of the grid

Ask the Secretary or Clerk of Course to place you near or at the back of the starting line-up, be aware that after each section you move up one place closer to setting off first. 

Watch other competitors

Keep a close eye on other drivers who are several places in front of you in the running order, watch where they succeed and where they make mistakes. Build a mental picture of the section in your mind.

At the Start Line

Line up at the start with your front axle on the line between the canes, not over and not ten feet back. Seat belts firmly fastened. Engage Diff lock and low box if your vehicle has it. Wait for the Start Marshal’s command.


Grip:  Hold the steering wheel firmly and with your thumbs pointing around the wheel rim, on no account wrap your thumbs around the steering wheel.  If you hit a rock or drop a front wheel into a hole the steering wheel can jerk and injure your thumb.

Ruts:  Once all your wheels are into deep ruts it is very difficult to steer out. Where the course demands that you steer out of ruts then try and steer in the tracks made by any other ‘successful’ competitors, you are far more likely to fail if you try and make a new path out. Traversing deep ruts is also not easy and can cause your vehicle to 'cross axle' this is where two wheels at diagonal corners of your vehicle have little or no grip and the vehicle's weight is supported on the other wheels and unless your vehicle has traction control it is unlikely you will be going anywhere. The trick here is to bounce the vehicle over the ruts, by blipping the accelerator pedal and/or dipping the clutch just before the first rut and again on the second, this is not so easy to master but you will soon see club members making it look so simple.

Tight Turns:  The Clerk of Course will always throw in a few tight turns. Vehicles longer than a Defender 90 are allowed a shunt, where they can stop and reverse and so one or two tight turns can help to even up the score and allow the 110’s and Disco’s move up the leader board. Begin driving such gates at least one or two gates back from a gate with a tight turn. This is to set up your vehicle into just the right position to negotiate the tight turn. If everyone is running out of steering lock and failing on a particular gate, you may try putting on full lock and, as quickly as you can, give it a blast of power and at the same time dip the clutch ‘in and out’ quickly. This will swing the vehicle around on its centre of gravity and may see you through. It may also break your half shaft, but they don’t cost much, and it’s all part of the fun! 

Side Slopes:  Steering through gates placed across side slopes can be tricky (it’s supposed to be) your vehicle is far more likely to tip over if you get this wrong than on any other type of terrain.  It is often the case that a cane will be placed at the foot of a hill with another cane some 15 or 20 feet up the hill side.  If you keep close to the bottom cane your vehicle will be safe but may hit the cane as it leans, if you go too far up the hill you may run the risk of being on the point of tipping. On Tyros the Clerk of Course will ensure that there is 'always' a safe path between the canes with no risk, on RTV's there will always be a safe path but you may be in for a little excitement if you get it wrong, on CCV's you may have to use quite a bit of skill to get through the gate without hitting a cane and avoid a roll over (CCV vehicles aren't fitted with roll cages for nothing). The trick is not to get too enthusiastic in trying to score points and climb too high or too steep while traversing on a hillside. If you are on a hillside and you get the feeling in your stomach like your vehicle may tip over, then don’t worry – it won’t. Land Rovers don’t tip over until the feeling goes to a much lower part of your body. When this happens, turn into the direction of the slide and drive down the hill in as straight a line as possible, first hit the accelerator to bring the vehicle around and then take your feet off everything and steer for the bottom of the hill. If you really are ‘going over’ then keep your arms inside the vehicle. The accepted best advice here is to cross your arms over your chest, grip your seat belts and close your eyes. If you don’t wake up at least you will be in the correct position for the undertaker (That`s a joke!! – obviously you`re sitting in a seat so will be in completely the wrong position!).


Brakes are for when you are stopped.  When you are trialling you haven't 'got to stop' or you have failed and you will receive the points for the gate in front of you, so there is one golden rule DON'T USE YOUR BRAKES except in a dire emergency. Keep your feet and hands off the brakes while trialling – especially on the down-hill sections where you should be in a low gear using engine braking. Remember this – once you have locked up all four wheels under braking going down a steep muddy hillside you have transformed the World's Best 4×4 into a sledge (probably a fast one)!  ‘Yes’, you will see some of our more experienced club members using their brakes, clutch and accelerator all at the same time. These guys have been trialling for so long now that they get confused and don’t know what to do with their feet and start pressing all the pedals in a vain attempt to get through.  As you get older, this technique does appear to work!


Proper Land Rovers have either, 4, 5 or 6 forward gears and a low ratio gearbox, anything less and you’re not going to win many trophies!  However, there is a growing ‘band of brothers’ who insist that a large V8 and an auto-box makes up for having no skill (only joking).

Tyro's: Select low box 2nd or 3rd gear, this should see you round most of the course without the confusion of changing gear. Drive up-hill and down-dale, steer left and right all in this gear using the accelerator to control your speed.  Downhill 'feet off everything' just steer – simple!

RTV's:  You will still largely be using second gear low box but if you are new to RTV's then keep in second gear and get some experience in negotiating the course. Some of the steeper down-hills may need first gear (always feet off brakes) but second should see you get around most of the course with the occasional move up into third gear for the muddy up-hill sections.  When the going is wet and muddy you will need third gear more often.

CCV's: Similar to RTV's but you will likely need to drive in third gear more often to keep traction and avoid wheel spin as the course will have steeper inclines, always a lower gear for those steep downhill sections.

Differential Lock

Centre diff-locks (if fitted) will almost certainly need to be engaged to give you maximum traction.  However there are a few occasions when this is not always the best thing to do.  If you are on good ground (hard packed shale or rock) and your vehicle is fitted with some serious rubber then there may be times when having the centre differential locked will increase your turning circle due the binding effect on tight turns or even lead to an axle half shaft breaking if you feed in too much power in a very low gear especially when turning.  Without the centre diff locked  the front and back axle differentials can rotate freely and this allows a certain amount of 'slippage' which can at times be helpful in seeing you through to the finish with fully working vehicle.

Up Hill Sections

Too heavy a right foot won't get you up many big hills. There are small mounds you can just crawl up, then there are those where you can give it some gas at the foot of the incline and almost coast to the top, but for the most part you will have to attack the bottom with a steady and controlled 'rush of power' and then feed in the power as you climb in third gear, without wheel-spin.  

Failed Hill Climb:  If you fail to get up a hill section of the trial then there is only one course of action to follow. At the moment you fail to climb the hill your vehicle will stop (obviously) depending upon the incline of the hill you may (or may not) be able to hold the vehicle on the foot-brake brake. You must always instantly select reverse gear and then take your foot off the brake pedal (yes that's off the brake pedal), release the clutch and drive back down the hill in reverse gear. If you have stalled the engine, then still select reverse gear and as you take your foot off the brake pedal, start the engine, then reverse back down the hill.  Keep on the same path you took to get up there.

Warning: If you try and reverse down a steep hill using only your brakes you can easily get into an uncontrollable down-hill slide and at quite a fast speed. You may not be able to drive a steady path and your vehicle can bounce off the path and even over-turn.  If the Clerk of Course is shouting at you with a beetroot face and steam coming from his ears, then listen to what he is saying and do the same!


Don't be timid when it comes to mud, too slow and you will be stuck like glue, too much gas at the start and you will dig yourself into the mire. You need a fairly reasonable entry speed to build up some momentum (similar to climbing a big hill) and then plenty of controlled acceleration to get you through in third gear without too much wheel spin.  Don't worry about getting stuck (because you will) as there will always be another club member available to pull you out.


Unless your driving a CCV motor, water shouldn't be a problem as the Clerk of Course won't set a course through any deep watercourses, however if you have a petrol engine vehicle take some WD40 or similar as you may need this for the ignition.  If you have seen pictures of Land Rover in water up to the roof, it’s either us having a laugh at the War of the Roses or it's not our club!