By Frank Seymour
O.S.T. stands for Observed Sectional Trial.
To compete in this event you must accept that there is a good chance that your car will get dirty, or even muddy. However, it will soon clean up again with a hose, a sponge and a bucket.
The first thing you need is a C.A.M.S. basic licence. There is no test involved, you just need to part with some money - a relatively painless experience.
The next thing is to go along to the next O.S.T on our club calendar. There are usually two O.S.T.'s each year.
When you arrive, you unload all your loose items from your car. You must produce your club membership number and your CAMS licence for viewing by the person taking entries (usually Kaye Thatcher).
Having taken care of that, if it is your first O.S.T. you should ask for advice from people who usually do well at these events. The person taking entries can point you in the right direction.
Usually you let the pressure down to very low levels in all tyres. The appropriate tyre pressure varies a bit, depending on who you ask. As a start, I would take the rear tyres down to around 12 p.s.i., and the front tyress to around 20p.s.i. This will still give reasonable steering without too much sideslip on turns.
Next, walk the course and determine where the difficult parts are, and don't forget to ask people for their opinions - they won't bite. Then you watch people as they drive through the course, and see where they go, and how smoothly they drive, while being careful to avoid touching the markers. Obviously you should try to copy the ones who get through the course.
Success in this type of event comes with developing smoooooth use of the right foot, and only those with a degree of skill will know just where to 'rev the ring' out of the engine to climb steep gradients.
There is no substitute for practice. Practice and still more practice, as well as much observation of those who do well.
One way of getting through slippery, muddy sections is to keep the front wheels straight, because the moment you turn those wheels you are creating a 'snowplough' effect. This results in you pushing a wall of mud, causing you to lose traction and normally ending your run for that test when you hit a marker.
Of course, some crafty organisers deliberately put a turn in a boggy section to sort out the competitors, but it is all good fun.
Your degree of driving skills will certainly improve as you gain experience in these events, and you don't need any special equipment to fit to your normal road car. Also, as a spectator, you are able to stand fairly close to the action in relative safety.
All that remains is for you to have a go and enjoy the experience. And please don't forget to ask for advice on the day.
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