Austin Seven Production Car Trials is a branch of motorsport well suited to those who enjoy competition that revolves around driving skill without significant power or speed and where, for many, the taking part really is more important than winning. It’s a great day out in the fresh air, sociable, easy on the wallet, and above all, fun.
Unlike its Sporting Trials cousin (where all the cars are purpose-built), Austin Seven Trials are designed for standard road-going cars to be entered and for it to be perfectly possible to drive the car to the Trial, take part, and drive home again. Although mechanical failures can sometimes occur – as they can anywhere - the course is laid out in such a way as to maximise the challenges but keep low the risk of damaging the cars.
In addition to standard cars there are usually classes for modified and ‘Special’ Austin Sevens. It means that a suitable car for Austin Seven Trialling can be purchased for a modest sum. No special equipment is needed and entry fees are around £20 - £30. A set of lightweight waterproofs is sometimes essential and for the winter Trials plenty of warm clothing.
Apart from an Austin 7 you will also need a ‘bouncer’ to accompany you. This passenger (who must be over 12 years of age) is there to help when the going gets slippery as they quite literally bounce up and down in their seat to set up a pitching motion in the car that helps the rear wheels get traction.
For the novice who has never even driven off-road before the prospect of entering a Trial can be a little daunting – but it really does not need to be. The enthusiasts who take part in Austin Seven Trial – both sexes, all ages - are generally welcoming, friendly and above all, helpful to the inexperienced entrant. Advice and encouragement are always in plentiful supply and there is genuine delight at seeing newcomers – especially youngsters - getting bitten by the Trialling bug. Officials and marshals are always approachable and willing to give guidance.
An Austin Seven Trial takes place on private land and comprises of about half a dozen different ‘sections’. The ground on which these sections are laid out could be in open fields, on hills or in woodland and on a variety of surfaces including grass, leaves and often a large helping of mud. Trials take place between September and April in all weathers –come rain, come shine.
Austin Seven Trials require entries to be made in advance of the day so you will have filled in the entry form some time beforehand. The forms are usually available online. Dates for events can be found on the 750 Motor Club website.
On arrival you will park up in the ‘paddock’ area and present your car for Scrutineering. Before inspection you may wish to reduce the rear tyre pressures to increase grip at low speed. The regulations will specify minimum pressures. Your car will be inspected by a scrutineer who will check that it is safe and compliant with the regulations. There are not too many requirements but it worth noting that a suitable fire extinguisher should be carried, battery be securely fixed in place, and double springs fitted on the throttle return. You may be asked to drive the car a short distance and to demonstrate the brakes are working well.
Once the car has passed Scrutineering the driver and passenger can sign on with the organisers. You’ll be given an entry number that will need to be fixed to the front of your car so the marshals can see it as you approach them. Before the start the Clerk of the Course will hold a Drivers’ Briefing to explain how the day will run and at which section each Class should start. You will now make your way to your starting point.
Sections vary in length but are generally of about 100 - 150 metres. They are marked out with gates comprising of twelve pairs of poles set at intervals. The car must be driven through each gate without touching a pole. Each right hand pole carries a number. These descend from 12 at the start down to number one at the end. Scoring is determined by the number on the poles where the car comes to a halt and can proceed no further – or if the car touches a pole. If the section is completed without mishap then a 0 score is entered. The aim is to get the lowest possible score each time.
Before tackling a section, drivers and their bouncer should walk the course taking note of tricky obstacles, the places where the surface might cause wheels to slip, and the steeper slopes where careful application of power or braking is called for. Sometimes natural obstacle such as large trees will require some extremely careful and accurate manoeuvring.
On starting a section the car must be driven continuously forwards; no reversing is allowed. Speed is not relevant as nothing is timed. The only thing that matters is the score. Passing between the pairs of poles the car must be driven with considerable awareness and judgement in order to maintain progress. Touching a pole, sliding backwards, reversing, or coming to a stop ends the run and the score will be the number on the pole ahead of the front axle line. Spinning the wheels without forward movement is limited to 3 seconds at most events.
Because the sections often have parts that are deep in mud, on wet grass, or on very loose surfaces, it is probable that in some cases only a few of the entrants will get right through to the end. Many will eventually find that at some point traction is irretrievably lost and that they must finish their turn on the section. At this point the marshal will mark the entrant’s scorecard and the car must be driven off the section.
This in itself can sometimes be tricky, especially if stopped on a steep and slippery slope. For safety reasons passengers may be required to get out of the car and walk off the section while the driver brings the car out. If the car has to be reversed and the slope is very steep a technique for keeping control is to have the engine off and the car in reverse gear. Combined with careful braking this helps to ensure the car will ‘wind down’ the hill under gravity rather than tending to accelerate away with a running engine.
Usually there will be at least three runs on each section – often two in the morning and another after lunch. To make things interesting, after the first runs, the Clerk of the Course will have had a look at the scores for each section and if it is clear that most cars are getting through with relative ease some re-arrangement of the gates will be made. Conversely if it looks as if too many entrants are getting caught out in a particular spot the gates may be altered to make it slightly easier. On your second run it’s always worth asking the marshals if anything has been altered on a section and if it has, to walk it again. When the runs have been completed the scorecards are handed in and soon after the winners are announced.
After that it is time to head for home, and for many that simply marks the start of looking forward to the next A7 Trial.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO HELP RUN THE TRIALS?
We are always looking for willing volunteers to help run the Austin Seven Trials on the day and will give instruction and guidance to those without experience. We particularly welcome those who would like to be marshals, help with the paperwork, or those who can assist the Clerk of Course in setting up and taking down the sections. If you have first aid skills or experience of health & safety risk assessing there are important roles to be filled and we would like to hear from you. Contact Mike Stone (details below) if you are able to lend a hand.
The following is an example of part of the regulations from a 750 Motor Club trial and details general requirements:
1 The event will consist of classes for Austin Sevens as follows:
Class 1 Standard production cars and tourers
Class 2 Unmodified production sports
Class 3 Modified modifed saloons and tourers
Class 4 Austin Seven modified sports, specials, and others not in class 1 and 2 & 3.
Class 5 Related guest cars or demonstration cars - i.e. not eligible for the above
2 All cars must comply with the MSA Technical Regulations (as modified 19 below) and the scrutineer will ensure the entered vehicle is in the correct class.
3 All competing vehicles shall be Austin Seven powered and have a wheelbase of 6’ 3” or 6’ 9”.
Well-based tyres with a tread pattern such that the blocks are not more than 10mm deep, nor more than 10mm apart laterally or circumferentially may run on a minimum of 5psi. Special grip, knobbly or hand-cut tread tyres must run at 15psi minimum pressure.
Austin Seven productions cars. Cars will be deemed to be Austin Seven production cars for the purpose of this event if they comply with (i) and the following conditions are met:
a) Cars must have bodies (or replicas thereof, but not glassfibre) by the Austin Motor Co. 1922-1939 fitted as standard equipment to Austin Seven cars, proprietary coach-built bodies of the era included.
b) Cars must be fitted with braking systems on all four wheels or two independent braking systems acting on front wheels simultaneously, the other on rear wheels simultaneously.
c) Cars must be fitted with Austin Seven front axle and stub axles with unmodified lock stops.
d) Cars must be fitted with overall gear ratios to the original specification.
e) Cars must be fitted with Austin Seven inlet/exhaust manifolds.
f) Cars must be fitted with Austin Seven wheels to the original factory specification for that model.
(iv) All cars must be fitted with original Austin Seven wheels appropriate for the type and model of car entered. Any car not complying with this regulation may be reclassified as a demonstration car.
For further details about Austin Seven Trials, contact:
MIKE STONE on 01892 664888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org