BTRDA ran a highly successful trials taster day at Shelsley the day before the Blankstone Trial, and with the help of the MAC’s publicity machine, managed to attract the largest number ever, seventeen participants with followers.
During the week I had some anxious phone calls with Andy Gowen about the state of the ground, due to the enormous amount of rain the previous week. We decided to run the Taster Day even if the Blankstone itself had to be cancelled, but in the event we had some delightful dry and sunny weather midweek and it all dried out nicely.
Sam Sheehan, the new motorsports correspondent from Autocar magazine took part, accompanied by his photographer, so we can expect some national publicity from him, and Mike Moran, the 2015 and 2016 Britpart British Cross Country Champion also came, with a view to joining the sport. His usual mount is a 450bhp 4×4 buggy with grippy tyres so this was going to be very different!
In order to cater for the numbers we brought along eleven “instructors” with their cars, so everyone got more than their fair share of the action.
Because driving a trials car is so different from anything else we need to start from the absolute basics, so the day begins with a simple slalom on a very gentle slope. This is a straight line of poles, and the drivers have to use the fiddle brakes to weave between the poles, whilst maintaining traction. The idea is to break the nasty habit of steering with two hands, and leaving the spare hand for continuous fiddle brake action. Trials cars will neither steer nor accelerate or stop without the use of fiddle brakes, so you need to keep your hand on the brakes at all times. Because they are driving on lush grass up a slope they need to learn delicate throttle control otherwise the very poor tyres fitted to all trials cars will lose traction and they will grind to a halt.
After an hour or so at the slalom, during which time I gradually tighten up the gaps, to the point that the cars will simply not turn tight enough without using the brakes, we proceeded to a couple of gentle sections. I say “gentle” but to the novices these seem to be quite daunting, and the usual problems occur where they approach the slope slowly and then apply power as they hit the slope. Although this may seem natural it is completely wrong for trials where you need to gather momentum where you can, on the flatter bits, and then back off to nothing on the slope to avoid breaking traction.
Because there were so many cars available, the action was more or less continuous and a break was called for lunch to allow frazzled brains to reboot, and allow time for questions.
After lunch we re-set the sections to become much more like the real thing, and there was a noticeable rise in the tension as they attempted to outdo each other and stop making mistakes. One of the joys of trials is the ability to watch the progress of others at close hand and learn from their errors.
At about 3.30 we called a halt so the instructors and their cars could get home in order to wash, service and refuel their mounts for the championship trial the next day.
All the feedback received so far is very kind and appreciative of a great day, although a sunny day in the valley makes it easy to give enjoyment to all, especially with some interesting cars to play with.