THE EXETER TRIAL
Battle against the elements
5 & 6 January 2024
Main / O / Cars / Motorcycles / Sidecars
Around 185 miles
Haynes International Motor Museum, Sparkford
The Passage House Inn, Kingsteignton, Devon
14 October 2023
17 November 2023
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 will be from Haynes International Motor Museum in Sparkford, where vehicle scrutineering and eligibility checks will be carried out.
The first observed section Windwhistle will be followed by an observed test with a few road miles Redscript and Underdown, 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 steep woodland climb of Streets and its nearby Core Hill observed test, which is held on an unsealed public road usually closed to motor vehicles. An observed section at Passaford helps direct competitors across the River Otter towards a well-earned breakfast at Crealy Adventure Park.
Dawn will greet most competitors shortly after they leave Crealy for the first section at Kingswell, where a slippery farm track requires a calculated turn of speed in order to maintain traction. Some thirty minutes later comes Tillerton Steep – 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, a dirt forest track, which quickly saps momentum from slower motorists.
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. The penultimate section of Tipley Hill is a wet, cambered and rocky climb located about a mile east of Simms. 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 Kingsteignton 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 starts from Haynes International Museum from 04.00 at one minute intervals. The route is around 180 miles long.
Class O offers sections on unsealed roads of a less damaging nature than the Main Trial, a great opportunity to exercise historic vehicles or provide an introduction to MCC trials. It is also more attractive to those competitors who prefer a shorter event during the Winter months. In 2022, we plan to offer at least two observed tests and 13 observed sections to our class O entrants.
O competitors have a breakfast stop at Crealy Adventure Park and visit Ilsington Village Hall before finishing near Kingsteignton.