Lands End. The very name suggests adventure on the limits of the known world and so it must have seemed to those intrepid motorcyclists who accepted the challenge put down by the MCC in 1908. Then the newly appointed president, that great contemporary racing man Charles Jarrott, offered a trophy for the winner of a timed run from London to Lands End and back, non-stop except for a short stopover at Penzance, over the August bank holiday weekend. History records that 21 started, 11 completed the course, and the winner of the Jarrott Cup for the rider keeping closest to the required average speed throughout was S G Frost on a Minerva (Frost had won the premier trophy in the club’s Edinburgh Run only seven weeks earlier). That the event was a success goes without saying for it was repeated the following year … and the following … and so on until the present day when every Easter up to 400 MCC members make their annual odyssey to the far west in the Lands End Trial. Until 1914, when light cars were admitted, it was bikes only but when it was resumed in 1920 cars were there in some force and the route deleted the “and Back” part, finishing at Lands End.
The route also started to include special observed hills which had to be climbed non stop and that was the beginning of the trial’s format we still use today. As roads and machinery have improved it is these hills which have become the meat of the event with the roads being only liaison sections, although these play their part by tiring competitors leading to failures on hills they would normally be expected to overcome. Many hills still used today, Beggars Roost in 1922 and Bluehills Mine in 1924, appeared on the route card so that by the beginning of the thirties the trial was little different from now creating that unique feeling that competitors are driving in the wheel marks of the mighty from a former generation.
The thirties were the days of enormous entry lists, often with over 500 competitors, while in 1936 the club went into civil engineering building the current hill at Bluehills Mine, by enlarging an old miners’ path, to replace the original road which by then was becoming too easy. Multiple starts have appeared to make it more convenient for competitors from different areas to take part while more recently the finish has been moved, first to Newquay, then for a few years back to Lands End and Penzance, and now it’s back at Newquay. But the essence of the Lands End Trial remains the same as ever – it is a difficult journey, full of obstacles, to the far west.