The 49th MCC Exeter Trial

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In spite of somewhat gloomy forecasts as to the future of long-distance trials, the Motor Cycling Club ran its “Exeter” successfully on January 7/8th. This after-Christmas classic had an entry of 322 (with 26 three vehicle Team-entries), ranging from a Porsche entered by Motor Sport to a courageous Fiat 500. These included 142 entries in the motorcycle classes, in which there were a goodly number of sidecar-outfits and two BSA three-wheelers, one a vee-twin, the other a four-cylinder. The event started from three places, converging on a common route that ended at Sidmouth. Apart from some fog and ice during the night the weather was good and the event finished not too badly behind schedule, in spite of three new hills being ambitiously included mostly during the hours of darkness.

Lack of space precludes mention of the many motorcycle ascents of Simms, where we decided to spectate, apart from remarking that most of the solo riders found it easy, although Steven’s Suzuki stopped almost at once, Haylett fell off his 185 c.c. Suzuki, Gagg made a sensational climb on his Triumph Trophybird, and very neat ascents were accomplished by Roberts (Triumph), Hughes (Yamaha) and Dabney (Royal Enfield), among others, while Waling (Yamaha) and Mills (./VIZ ISDT Replica) buzzed up. Hurst (Honda), Browne (BSA), and Burt (Matchless) were among those who took Simms fast, but it was Hiscox (Yamaha) who seemed intent on making f.t.d. Browne (Tribsa) made a fine climb, Quance (Bultaco) blipped up noisily, and Chapman (Norton) had “moments” from which he recovered skilfully. Both the BSA 3-wheelers had to be winched-up.

There had been delays while a tractor was got into position at the top of the hill and it winched-up failures among the car competitors very slowly. Fortunately, to relieve the waiting, comic interludes were provided by Newton, on a Tribsa combo. He and his passenger walked up to look at the hill, tried it but fell off, then appeared again much later, only to roll the machine. Newton then proceeded to run over his luckless passenger. We thought perhaps the RAC had provided this comic turn, as some retribution for the threat of increased permit-fees…

After we had been standing in an uncomfortable stance in a holly bush for some three hours the cars began to arrive. Immediately interest seemed to quicken among the wellbehaved onlookers lining each side of Simms, that 200-yard hill rising out of the village of Ilsington, with a steep right-hand bend, followed by a straight gradient with a maximum of 1 in. 21. The “Exeter” was first held in 1910 and this hill was included from 1933, when it failed 191 out of 250 entries. This year Simms was in fair condition; different starting-lines were used for solo and sidecar machines and for cars on standard or knobbly tyres. A VW Beetle came first and stopped about two-thirds of the way up, as did Mitchell’s early Ford Cortina. But Andrews’ Dellow had no trouble and the appreciative crowd clapped, as they did Partridge’s yellow MG TA which got up in spite of using the bank. Newton’s HRG seemed likely to succeed but fluffed out right at the summit, perhaps with fuel-starvation, Stevenson, revving his Imp hard, just made it (more applause), but although he chose the best path, Davies’ Ford Escort stopped just before the end of the observed-section. Then Threlfall got almost up in his Model-A saloon, to cries of “shame” when it failed. This aged Ford “cleaned” all the other sections, unlike Barker’s Model-A Ford, which had succumbed early with electrical troubles.

Thompson’s VW Beetle was successful, Battersby’s Morgan 1600 spun to rest high up, on loose stones, Miller’s 1500 Anglia with odd radiator and what appeared to be an MG body started slowly and stopped halfway up with lots of wheelspin, Hutchings’ Sunbeam Imp made it, as did Cooke’s similar car, with plenty of revs on. Hinde preferred to blip his 2-litre Peugeot up, its wheels throwing back stones, Sargeant’s two-tone VW Beetle stopped halfway, Burrows’ Beetle got rather higher but failed, Green’s didn’t get as far. de Mattos hadn’t a hope with seized rear brakes in his Peugeot 504 and took a long time deciding how to get off the section, Churchill’s Beetle grounded badly and failed halfway, the Oliver Special almost got up, Shire’s Beetle showed little urge from the start and stopped two-thirds up, whereas Taylor’s Skoda got away well but failed when almost clean, as did Griffin’s Beetle. The Man from MOTOR SPORT, who was “clean” so far, even in a difficult restart test on Tillerton, then made a splendid ascent in the Porsche, cheered by the crowd, after which the dismissal of Hughes’ DAF 55 Marathon with audible belt-slip was an anti-climax. Margetts’ Morgan 1600, in spite of wheelspin at the end, made the ascent successfully, and Williams’ Ford Pop had lost one big-end but contrived to finish. After which this reporter, having been on the hill for some 5i hours, decided to go to the finish, where the first motorcyclists had clocked-in only about art hour late, and were accommodated in a very spacious Municipal car-park. The breakfast stop at the Mercury Motel at Kennford had also provided excellent accommodation for the competing vehicles in pleasant surroundings. The 1976 Exeter was an undoubted success. These MCC Classics must continue.—W.B.