Every trialler knows about the MCC’s ‘Big Three’ trials (the Cold One, the Long One, and the Rough One, to quote Peter Jones of MG fame) and the Sporting Trial (the precursor to the modern Edinburgh); and those with a reasonable knowledge of MCC History will have heard of the Spring Trial (1980 and 1981 only). But I suspect that very few people know of the MCC Devon Trial, run once-only on the 31st July 1948 (the Saturday of a Bank Holiday weekend). I was aware of its existence, but very little more than the date, until a recent visit to the VSCC Library, to trawl through their magazine collection, revealed double-page articles about the event in both Autocar and The Motor.
The MCC, because it ran long distance events, was affected more than most motor clubs by the petrol rationing which severely curtailed trialling in the immediate PostWar period. The first PostWar Exeter was not run until January 1949, and the Edinburgh never returned to its PreWar format. The Sporting Trial was the least affected, because it had always been a short distance event, but the Lands End Trial had a much more chequered return. There was no attempt to run the event in 1946, and the 1947 event was run to a shortened format starting in Taunton and including observed sections all the way from Doverhay to Blue Hills. The abolition of the petrol ration for non-essential motoring between 1st December 1947 and 1st June 1948 curtailed all motorsport, and the 1948 Lands End could not be run on its traditional Easter date. But the MCC was determined to run some sort of event to celebrate the return of the petrol ration (i.e. a meagre ration of petrol rather than no petrol at all), and the Devon Trial was the result.
The course was just 34 (or 30, or 37, reports vary!) miles, starting in Minehead and finishing in Lynton, via a selection of well-known north Somerset and north Devon hills – Doverhay, Yealscombe, Wellshead, Southern Wood, Lyn, Beggar’s Roost, and Station Hill (more often known as Station Lane). Yealscombe (approached through the River Exe to the west of Exford) claimed the most failures, with Southern Wood running it a close second. There were 67 entries, with 14 claiming a Premier Award. J H Radbourne in a HRG was awarded the prize for the Best Car Performance; the Allard team of Appleton, Burgess, and Potter won the One Make Team Award; and a team of two MGs and Radbourne’s HRG won the Mixed Team Award.