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.
View an original guide to the Exeter Trial from the 1939 Motorcycle report here.