Edinburgh 2005

Exeter 2005. Trevor Griffiths and Alison Nutt on a 620cc VMC 'outfit' tackle Tillerton on the way to a Gold Medal.

Edinburgh 2005

Exeter 2005. Dudley Sterry in his MG cleaning Tillerton and winning the Austin Hannam Cup for Best Car in the event.

Edinburgh 2005

Exeter 2005. Brian Symes and Ian Mahany in the red Devon mud on the exit from Slippery Sam with just a handful of road miles to complete before collecting their Gold Medal.

Photographs by Charlie Wooding.

The Exeter Trial

The youngest of the club's 'Big Three', this started in 1910 when the MCC broke new ground by introducing the “London to Exeter and Back Winter Club Run” on Boxing Day, when saner folk might be expected to be enjoying the warmth of the festive season with their families. To prove MCC members were, and still are, a race apart the event generated 81 entries on two, three and four wheels while within three years a dizzy 231 faced the starter. This was a no nonsense trial starting in the evening and finishing back at the same place the following afternoon during which nearly 500 miles had to be travelled at a predetermined average speed on indifferent roads through the worst of the winter weather, and it is perhaps this very feature which has always made this one so popular.

By 1913 improving roads led to the introduction of Chard and Trow Hills, which had to be taken non stop under observation, and this trend continued when hostilities resumed in 1920 with increasingly more 'set piece' hills in the route. Unlike the Lands End Trial it was not until the Thirties that hills still in use, Fingle Bridge ('32) and Simms ('33) appeared on the scene while surprisingly it was not until 1935 that the event officially became known as The Exeter Trial.

Whatever the name, the event had already become popular, with record entries and a course which was really difficult. In the opinion of some members it was becoming too difficult and the wisdom of including Simms was queried after 1933, when it stopped all but 18 cars, so by the end of the decade it had become an optional hill with a special award for those who conquered it.

The trend since WW2 has been for the finish to move further west, Salisbury, Blandford, Bournemouth, Weymouth, Sidmouth being favoured, and finally to Torbay, while several starting points followed by a concentration run save competitors wasting mileage positioning. The date moved to early January, when daylight is shortest and the weather at its worst, and if that were not enough the established hills were joined by some 'Toughies' in Clinton and Bovey woods ensuring the trial remained competitive.

A few years ago, when the Exeter Trial was celebrating its 90th anniversary, a special section was included using an easier route which included many hills which had been used in the trial in the past but were no longer a challenge for modern machinery. This Run attracted an enthusiastic entry, and became the precursor of Class O which is now included in all three MCC classics. This is effectively a trial within a trial catering for competitors who want to continue competing in MCC events but because of age, or the type of machinery they drive, prefer something less demanding.

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