The Classic Motorcycle Rally

The report below is copied verbatim from a small publication by Ken Macleod entitled Through the Dust Barrier, Part One, 1903-1923 - The history of S.A. Motorcycle Sport. (Part Two, the final issue, covered the years 1924-1927).

Post World War One brought financial problems. Prices had increased to such an extent that the estimated cost of competing in the Deejay had risen to R200 and firms were unwilling to spend so much money for so little return. In spite of the publicity gained from winning, there was little point in it when industry was struggling to get back to normal and demand far exceeded supply.

But the race was held on August 25, 1919 when 47 riders faced the starter. The race was held over two days with the overnight stop at Newcastle.

Percy Flook took an early lead which he maintained to Newcastle with Fritz Zurcher (350cc Douglas) second and Charlie Young third. Bobbie Blackburn celebrated his 19th birthday during the race and had a hard dice with Pete Laurence which he lost by one minute. He also had a "dice" with a train for three miles to a level crossing at Greylingstad, accompanied by strenuous hooting by the driver. But Blackburn was not going to wait for five minutes at a closed gate and won this particular dice by three seconds!

Ian Scott lost his exhaust valve at Balfour but continued and 13 riders retired at Volksrust. Evans fell heavily at Mount Prospect when his bike reared and fell on top of him, breaking a leg. Ralph Suzor retired at Newcastle with a broken gearbox as did C. D. Bulman with a broken connecting rod.

Zurcher had magneto trouble at the start of the second day but recorded a very fast time to Durban after repairing' it. Flook lost time repairing a chain at Ladysmith. Young collided with a horse on the Biggarsberg, smashing his front forks. He fitted a piece of fencing iron with a piece of fencing wire to one of the stays. The badly damaged steering caused excessive play and the engine had fallen forward to clear the ground by centimetres. But he still made up considerable time from Estcourt.

Flook crashed at Inchanga and broke his belt shortly afterwards. Then he lost a valve in his back tyre at Westville and rode the remaining seven miles on a flat back tyre.

Blackburn finished third breaking the distance record by 5 minutes in 11 hours 16 minutes in spite of losing 40 minutes while fitting a new tube in Pietermaritzburg. Reckenberg finally made it in tenth place.

There were 15 finishers.


1. P. Flook (Rand, 350cc Douglas) 12 hours 45 minutes average speed 32,94 m/h;
2. C. H. Young (Natal, 500cc Triumph);
3. R. Blackburn (Natal, 1 000cc Harley Davidson) 11 hours 16 minutes average speed 37,27 m/h.

The article below appeared in The Motor Cycle, October 2nd, 1919.

The Johannesburg-Durban Race.

A South African Tourist Trophy over a Difficult 421 Miles Course.

A British Lightweight Wins.

After a lapse of five seasons the great event of the South African motor cyclists' year has again been held, and received enthusiastic .support. The course over which the race takes place is the road (so-called) between Johannesburg and Durban, a distance of 421 miles.

Although in somewhat better condition than previously, the road in many places degenerates into a mere bush track, and several competitors suffered broken frames and similar troubles.

The start was made from City Deep Mine, Johannesburg, at 8 a.m. on the 24th of September, and the arrangements, carried out by the Rand M.C.C., were excellent; thousands of spectators witnessed the start of the forty-six competitors on their long journey.

Handicapping Equalises all Types.

The motor cycles entered were of representative makes, and of all types, and, in consequence, a careful system of handicapping had been evolved, which proved very satisfactory.

The limit man was J. P. Booth (2 Junior Triumph), who had 4h. 43m. start, the scratch man being P. Lawrence (7-9 Indian). Great interest and enthusiasm were manifest at various points of vantage on the route, and several exciting incidents were noted. Wolsen (3 Hazlewood) had a bad fall near the start, but was able to continue. Dave Owen (3 Indian) retired near Volksrust with a, burst tyre, as did Carrol (4 Bradbury). Beard, riding a 4 Bradbury, broke his frame at Heidelberg.

C. H. Young (4 Triumph), when halfway, became involved in an altercation with a horse, with the result that his back forks were broken. Patching up the damage with materials obtained from 'some near-by iron fencing, the rider completed the course, and arrived second, averaging 36.3 m.p.h., a fine performance, under the circumstances.

Owing to the difficulty of procuring new machines, many old models were entered, one being a 1910 Bradbury, which the rider, F. Nissen, successfully piloted to the conclusion, maintaining an average of 28.9 m.p.h.

British Machines Successful.

Despite the popularity gained by the products of other countries during the war, British motor cycles were predominantly successful in the event, five of the first six places being gained on them. Of the thirteen competitors who finished, ten were mounted on representative British mounts.

Percy Flook, the winner, rode a 1915 2 Douglas (3h. 18m. start), and completed the course of 421 miles at an average speed of 32.5 m.p.h. Flook is a well-known rider, and represented South Africa in the 1913 T.T., when he rode a Triumph. The fastest time in the race (constituting a record for the course) was made by R. Blackburn (7-9 Harley-Davidson), who averaged 36.8 m.p.h.; this speed was closely approached by C. H. Young (4 Triumph), who, with In. 8m. start, ran into second place, maintaining an average of 36.3 m.p.h., despite the accident and frame breakage described above.

In addition to the machines mentioned in the schedule below, the entries included many other British motor cycles, among which may be mentioned Royal Enfields, Hazlewood, Zenith, James, P. and M., Norton, and an assembled machine known as the Hilda.

Percy Flook, who won the Johannesburg-Durban handicap race on a 2 h.p. Douglas
C.H. Young (4 h.p. Triumph), who ran second in 11h. 17m. 20s. His average speed was 36.3 m.p.h.
Bates Tyres advertisement in The Motor Cycle, September 18th 1919.