Battle against the elements


3 & 4 January 2025


<14 HR




Main / O / R / Cars / Motorcycles / Sidecars


Around 185 miles


Haynes International Motor Museum, Sparkford


The Passage House Inn, Kingsteignton, Devon


5 October 2024


17 November 2024

Exeter Trial map


1: Normans Hump & Clinton / 2: Stretes / 3: Tillerton Steep / 4: Fingle Hill / 5: Simms Hill/ 6: Slippery Sam

A challenging long distance trial that takes in some of England’s most historic unsealed roads.

Add the unpredictability of extreme winter weather and the Exeter Trial has become a true test of grit for man, woman and machine.



Originally promoted in 1910 as a London to Exeter (and back) reliability trial, the Exeter Trial (as it came to be known from 1935) is the newest of our ‘big three’ events, and was initially held on Boxing Day.

Now held in early January, the event is an opportunity for motorists to test their grit against the prevailing conditions on historic unsealed roads, arguably making it the most authentic of our events to its heritage.

The start for all competitors will be from Haynes International Motor Museum in Sparkford, where vehicle scrutineering and eligibility checks will be carried out.

The finish is at the Passage House Hotel, Kingsteington, near Newton Abbott.


Main trial competitors

After departing Haynes there will be a ‘handbrake test’ for all car competitors followed by an observed test at Windwhistle near Chard. Then proceed on to Underdown section held in private woodland near the A30. There is an opportunity to refuel in Musbury, where the garage opens especially for our event. Night sections continue with Norman’s Hump and Clinton two tricky hills located within a mile of Hangman’s Stone. Norman’s Hump and Clinton are straight climbs on firm forestry tracks, though their restarts are held in their muddiest parts, so vehicle positioning is crucial in order to preclude failure. Shortly after Clinton comes the twisty climb at Waterloo, then on to a Historic Hill brought back into use this year, first used in 1929 a steep woodland climb followed by Stretes and quickly nearby to the Core Hill observed test, which is held on an unsealed public road usually closed to motor vehicles. Then across the River Otter towards a well-earned Barn breakfast at the Greendale Farm Shop.

Dawn will greet most competitors shortly after they leave Greendale breakfast halt. Next comes Tillerton Steep near Cheriton Bishop – a memorable and historic climb requiring a good deal of momentum. Soon comes Fingle Hill – a winding, stone hill road of nearly one mile in length, which has earned its reputation as one of the most atmospheric sections in the event. Fingle is followed by Wooston Steep, but some classes will be directed to Seamans Borough. Both are dirt forest track, which quickly saps momentum from slower motorists.

The route now in the Dartmoor National Park traverses around Bovey Tracey towards the village of Ilsington. Before entering the village however first observed section to negotiate is Tipley, a wet, cambered and rocky climb shortly followed by Donkey Trot section, an unassuming track that looks too easy but be warned. After refreshments at Ilsington Village Hall comes the section for which the trial has become famous – Simms Hill. Simms is a one-in-three (and a half) gradient slab of rock which attracts vocal spectators in their hundreds – most of which will arrive in time to see the first motorcycles and depart only when the final cars have passed through. Many MCC members will have their preferred method for Simms, but without both initial traction and a good turn of speed any choice of line becomes moot. Competitors with a medal chance at this point will be understandably nervous as they approach Slippery Sam – the final section. This twisting, muddy climb is a worthy final test and car drivers in particular will need to choose their lines wisely around its hairpin bends in order to conserve momentum.

A final journey to the Finish is all that remains for competitors wishing to claim a medal or finishers’ certificate – both of which will have been well earned after what can be a cold and wet event.

Class O competitors

Class O offers sections on unsealed roads of a less damaging nature than the Main Trial, a great opportunity to exercise historic vehicles or introduce MCC trials to competitors for the first time.

Class O starts from Haynes International Museum from 03.00. The route closely follows the main trial and incorporates the same Observed tests at Windwhistle and Core Hill. First observed section is Redscrip near Yarcombe, followed by refuelling at Musbury Garage. Then proceed to Gatcombe Lane, first used in 1980 followed by Jobbles Lane which both can be a little rocky in places. Next to Pin Hill (first used 1937), a tarmac hill with a restart followed by the Core Hill test. Breakfast at Greendale Farm Shop. Next observed section is Windout (first used on the Exeter 1937) hopefully the ford will not be too deep to climb the steep slippery hairpins. Class O will then tackle Fingle Hill and another woodland track in Fingle Woods. Still in the Dartmoor National Park to Pepperdon Hill, a very narrow tarmac lane, followed by Little John’s Walk. Class O then join the Main trial in attempting Donkey Trot before Tea and cakes at Ilsington Village Hall. Final section near Slippery Sam and onto the Finish. If you have been successful on all tests, sections and to time then a well-deserved Blue Hills Tin medal awaits.

Class R competitors

Class R is a tarmac only route as part of the Main trial. It uses the same start, breaks/food stops and finish venues as the rest of the event but uses, in the main, a different route, however it shares 3 tarmac sections with class O which include stop and restarts.

The route will be issued 1 hour before your start time as a printed route book (you may in addition purchase an additional copy with your entry). There is no need for maps, but you are welcome to use them. There will be approx. 15 code boards to ensure you follow the route. These will be on single track roads, on the lefthand side of the road on wooden posts and will be placed in a prominent place facing you and not hidden. Also there will be a number of time checks to ensure you keep to the time schedule, hopefully a timed test and also additional class R stop and restarts on a gradient.

Any roadworthy vehicle is suitable for class R with no preparation except to comply with the SSR’S and ASR’S, an effective handbrake, fire extinguisher, safety equipment etc.


The mixture of muddy forest tracks and twisting, stony hill roads demands a broad range of driving skills from competitors seeking a medal – no two sections are alike. Adding to this the cold, wet weather of early January cements the Exeter’s reputation as our most challenging event.


Read the advice from those with experience...


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