The Classic Motorcycle Rally

The above photograph, taken at Estcourt during the 1970 Johannesburg to Durban Motor Cycle trial, shows the originator of this event, Dick Osborne, setting off after the lunch break, eagerly assisted by some school boys. The photograph appeared on the front cover of the SAVVA publication "Vintage Motor", Spring 1970. The picture was supplied by Duckhams.
History of the Durban-Johannesburg Motor-Cycle Races

The first motor cycle race between Durban and Johannesburg was held in 1913. At that time, a touring trip between the cities by road was an adventure in itself and motorists prepared themselves well in advance for all eventualities such as mud, punctures, mechanical breakdowns, etc. Normally, the trip would take two to three days and on arrival at their destination, drivers would normally be asked "How many punctures did you have?" To travel by car was an adventure, by motor cycle an experience never to be forgotten, but to cover the distance by motor cycle at racing speeds!

To cater for all sizes of machines, the race was a handicap race with the little bikes leaving as much as five hours ahead of the scratch man. However, a special prize was awarded to the rider setting fastest time.

The following extract-from the official programme for the 1927 event provides an interesting recap of the event up to that time:

“The romance of half a hundred speedmen pounding hot engines over the rugged 400 miles separating the coast from South Africa's greatest metropolis has gripped the imagination of sportsmen all the world over. The Durban-Johannesburg motor cycle race has come to rank as one of the Empire's classic events; local enthusiasts go mad over it, the race is 'splashed' in the South African Press, and the English periodicals wax mildly enthusiastic”.

Such fame in the sporting world cannot be built up in a day, and, like all other great institutions, the Durban-Johannesburg race has a history. It was born in 1913, and curiously enough, only a few months ago/its founder and organiser, Captain H.N. Lloyd, died on the Rand. His name will not be forgotten, however, as the Rand Motor Cycling Club have this year donated a valuable trophy as a mark of respect to the race pioneer.

It is now fourteen years since the sixty competitors started off on their gruelling trial over the 400 miles between Johannesburg and the Natal capital. It is of interest to note that in those days the race was run from the Rand coastwards and not, as is the case to-day, in the reverse direction. The honour of winning that first race fell to A. W. McKeag riding a Bradbury, who covered the distance in 14 hours 46 minutes. The present record, put up by J. W. du Toit in 1925, is 8 hours 46 minutes 57 seconds.

The Durban-Johannesburg road race to-day is promoted by the Rand Motor Cycle Club, just as it was promoted by that enterprising body fourteen years ago. The first trophy was a 100-guinea cup, presented by the Hutchinson Tyre Company, now Hutchinson (S.A.) Ltd. The present winner holds the £125 Schlesinger Vase for one year and receives a cash prize of £150. Prize money totals £275-18s. in all. In addition, there is, this year, the Lloyd and Sunbeam Trophies for competition between teams drawn from the various clubs.

Few records remain to-day concerning the rules governing the first Johannesburg-Durban road race. As the years passed, however, a code-book was gradually drawn up, and the 1927 event is to be governed by strict and specific regulations. A new departure has now been made in the compelling of the fitting of silencers to the machines. There are 33 other rules, the object of which is to make the event a genuine trial in which only the best machines can win.

Let us roll back the pages of our history book to the year 1913, and from the fall of the starter's flag follow the romance of the classic up to the present moment. There were over 60 entries for the first event, battled out for the Hutchinson Trophy. Preliminary details were made by the Rand Motor Cycling Club, who were assisted by the Natal Club and officials all along the route. Car owners scoffed at the race, and many persons predicted that not a single machine would get through.

Nevertheless, excitement was keyed up to a fever point when the flag dropped and the limit men coughed away over the hills to the South. There were three stops in the race - the first at Standerton, the second at Ladysmith, and the third at the Toll Gate, Durban. The trial proved to be an orgy of mishaps; untried frames gave way to the terrible road conditions, primitive tyres could not stand the strains, and engines gasped to a standstill on the tops of the hills, or bogged in the drifts.

In the first few miles one rider broke a leg and another fractured his jaw. The second lap saw many casualties, and even the first man into Ladysmith, A. W. McKeag, did not get off without a spill. McKeag reached Durban next day, still in the lead, a large margin separating him from Fenwick, the second man home. In his victory, Mac treasured above all things a small silk handkerchief - his mascot and 'luck bringer'

Such wide publicity was given to the first Johannesburg-Durban race that when it was announced later that a similar event would take place in the following year, sportsmen were agog with expectation. Mr. I.W. Schlesinger donated the first prize - the present Schlesinger Vase - and in addition the first man home received 100 guineas. Again there was a large field of entries, the winner being B. Adams, riding a Rudge. Perhaps it would be as well to repeat the text of the account of the race as published in the 'Rand Daily Mail' of June 2nd, 1914. This was as follows:

'Speaking of the race between himself and Thompson (second man) on the road from Maritzburg, Adams described it as thrilling. On leaving Maritzburg, Adams heard the snorting of Thompson's Rudge, and he immediately opened out, taking all possible risks, but Thompson never left him until nearing the end of the run. Adams was surprised that he finished 2 minutes 53 seconds ahead of the second man. He felt convinced all the way from the City that only accidents would prevent seconds separating them at the finish.

The roads on the whole, Adams remarked, were good. Right from Ladysmith to Maritzburg he travelled at nearly 70 miles per hour, but from Maritzburg down as far as Camperdown he had to exercise great care, the road being very rutty. The track gradually became rocky, and the trip from Camperdown to Bellair was the worst stretch he experienced. It was a treacherous ride.'

Now comes a gap. The next year saw the attention of everyone focussed on the grim scenes being enacted in France and East Africa, and there was no thought of the Durban-Johannesburg road race. Many of those fine men who pioneered the event went overseas never to return, and it was not until 1919 that the race was revived.

Again it was from the City Deep to the coast, but for the first time it was held over two days instead of the three days taken for the first two. Machines had improved out of all recognition, probably as a result of war experience, but even then Adams' time of 11 hours 21 minutes still stood as a record.

The race saw the rise to fame of Percy Flook, twice T.T. winner and hero of many classic events besides. Percy was astride a Douglas, and curiously enough the second man was Charlie Young, also of T.T. fame. The race does not appear to have been marked by any special feature other than the usual punctures and spills.

In the following year, however, occurred one of the most romantic races of South African history. It was known as the "Snowstorm Derby", and not without a cause. The riders who lined up outside the City Deep bound for the coast could little have realised what lay before them, otherwise few would have started.

Three hours after the flag had dropped, a storm of indescribable intensity began to rage in the Biggarsberg barrier to Natal, and only eight men managed to pull their mud-bogged mounts through. Their times ranged from 23 hours 18 minutes 20 seconds to 50 hours 42 minutes 10 seconds. The tale is a heroic one and deserves more than a mere passing mention.

The late Fletcher Owen on an Indian was in the lead nearing Newcastle, and had caught up Percy Flook, a Douglas man, when the two struck the full force of the blizzard. They were both drenched to the skin with the rain and the sleet, and their machines were caked in mud. In the darkness of the storm they espied the lights of a farmhouse, and you can judge the good landlord's surprise when the two damp, bedraggled and shivering men pushed their stubborn mounts into his back yard.

The housewife got busy over the roaring fire, and hot coffee and "grog" were soon forthcoming. Flook and Owen were so frozen that they were unable to remove their sodden clothes, and the farmer stripped them and wrapped them in blankets.

Suddenly the two men were surprised to hear the beat of a machine, but did not pay much heed to it, as they did not think it possible for anyone to have got through the terrible road conditions prevailing. A farm-boy brought in the news a little later, however, that Zurcher had gone through on the Douglas. Without a moment's hesitation, Flook and Owen donned their wet "togs" and set off in pursuit. Owen was shortly afterwards held up by a broken chain which he repaired by the light of matches.

Simultaneous with the "Snowstorm Derby" there was run off a sidecar race in the opposite direction. The winner was Alf Long, one of South Africa's premier "aces" who piloted an Excelsior to Newcastle in 7 hours 3 minutes 37 seconds. His trip to Johannesburg was made in a further 6 hours 30 minutes 31 seconds, making a total of 13 hours 34 minutes 8 seconds.

The year 1921 saw a change. Instead of racing coast-wards, the event started at Durban and finished at the City Deep. This practice is continued to-day. The late "Bobby" Blackburn was the hero, for he lowered the record held by Adams by over an hour, his time being 10 hours 12 minutes. He also secured the distinction of being the only man who has won the race from scratch. The machine was a Harley-Davidson.

The next year, however, saw the lowering of this record by quite a substantial margin, the hero being A If Long, whose name has become a household word in South Africa. The race was won by Charlie Young on a Triumph, in 10 hours 1 minute, but Alf Long returned a time of 9 hours 46 minutes. Long was third and I.H.R. Scott on a A.J.S. was second.

Percy Flook won the 1923 race on a Douglas. This event saw no breaking of records, the best time being returned by Loader, who clocked in 9 hours 47 minutes after leaving Durban. Flock's time was 10 hours 9 minutes.

One of the most astonishing and thrilling races in the history of South African motor cycling occurred in 1924. It was a triumph for Alf Long and for his wonderful Longstroke Sunbeam. Alf, besides breaking all existing records, put up a time in the 500 c.c. class that still stands unchallenged to-day. He cut a meteoric passage through the field, and at Newcastle the news came that he had lowered the record for that section of the race. Nothing seemed to be able to stop him - on the final day, so the story goes, he was so far ahead of the big mounts that he stopped to chat to the rider of a smaller machine who was then in the lead, before tearing on to clock home with a time of 9 hours 2 minutes 6 seconds. His average was 43.72 m.p.h.

The year 1925 was marked by the setting up of a speed record which stands today. J. W. du Toit, who had never been over the road before, got going with a steady roar at Durban, and did not falter until he had clocked in at Newcastle. He had not beaten Alf Long's time for that section, but his performance was nevertheless outstanding. Interest had meanwhile shifted to the battle going on between the side-valves in front, and little attention was paid to the Harley man.

In the last lap du Toit made history. His mount again never once ceased its steady roar, and when he had clocked in at the City Deep a record of 8 hours 46 minutes 57 seconds was written on the books of the R.M.C.C. The race was won by C. W. Bower, a pupil of the redoubtable Percy Flook, astride the belt-driven side-valve Douglas. Baby Scott kept the lead on a Francis Barnett right up to the last stages with Alf Long, Joe Sarkis and Kirkland closing in on his heels. Bower eventually pulled off first place, with Long a good second.

Last year's race is still fresh in the minds of all. It was marked by the performance of a little 300 side valve O.K., ridden by a Natal man, J. R. Gibson, and by the courage of the second and third men, who rode on in the face of many difficulties. Alf Long in particular, after a heroic ride from Newcastle minus foot rests and with badly damaged knee and foot, pushed an Indian into third place, and finished with one hand while the other gripped the carburetter.

Ted Murray put up fastest time on his Harley, but did not lower the record of his co-rider, du Toit. Len Cohen gave an outstanding performance on his 348 overhead valve A.J.S., but fell out with a broken piston near Heidelberg.

Such, then, is a brief history of the world's longest and most severe motor cycle road race. We cannot close our narrative without mentioning the splendid organisation which has been built up by the R.M.C.C. Seated at ease in a tent at the City Deep, one can hear the progress of each rider droned out by a man at the telephone; control officers work all along the line, keeping the officials at headquarters posted of the latest news, while the timekeepers' stop watches click steadily as the winner draws near.

Wireless loud-speakers bawl out the news, and there is a flutter of excitement among the dense crowds when the first faint drone of an engine is heard. What roars of applause go up from the thousands and thousands of spectators lining the ropes when the winner comes in! What a rush there is to greet him, what hand-shakes, and what headlines in the local papers!

Surely there is nothing quite like the Durban-Johannesburg road race. Thrills of hard riding, pluck, endurance are all there. We cannot close our narrative without just a final bow to the late Captain H. N. Lloyd, sportsman and pioneer."

The last event was held in 1936 after which the authorities stepped in and banned racing on public roads due to higher speeds and increased volume of traffic using the Durban-Johannesburg road. In this event, the fastest time ever was put up by the popular rider R. 0. Hesketh riding a 349 c.c. overhead camshaft Excelsior who set a record time of 6 hours, 5 minutes and 2 seconds. The winner of the event was C. Jarman riding a 350 side Valve A.J.S. (which he bought for £4.10.0) in a time of 6 hours, 51 minutes and 7 seconds. The event was marred by the only fatality in the long history of the race when J. M. Leishman, riding a 495 c.c. A.J.S. crashed near Modder Spruit Valley.

Although the 1936 event closed another chapter in the history of motoring in South Africa, the memories and records of the event will not soon be forgotten. Older readers will remember with nostalgia the famous names of the day such as the three Scott brothers, Ivan, Clarrie and Baby, Bobby Blackburn, Charlie Young, Fritz Zurcher, Percy Flook, Alf Long, Len Cohen, Grant Line, B. V. Moore, Noel Horsfield, Roy Hesketh, Don Hall, Burton Kinsey and little Joe Sarkis. Not to be forgotten are famous machines of the day (many of which are no longer around) including the Indian, the Harley Davidson, The Chater Lea, the famous Douglas and Sunbeam machines, the A.J.S., Velocette and Norton and many others.

The Durban-Johannesburg race will always be remembered and associated with the romance, adventure and excitement of travel in the "good old days".


1913 A. W. McKeag Bradbury, 14 hrs. 46 mins.
1914 B. Adams 499 Rudge Multi, 11 hrs. 30 mins. 19 secs.
1919 P. Flook 350 Douglas, 12 hrs. 43 mins. 47 secs.
1920 F. A. R. Zurcher 494 Douglas, 23 hrs. 18 mins. 20 secs.
1921 R. J. Blackburn 989 Harley Davidson, 10 hrs. 12 mins. 19 secs.
1922 C. H. Young 499 Triumph, 10 hrs. 1 min. 32 secs.
1923 P. Flook 349 Douglas, 10 hrs. 9 mins. 55 secs.
1924 Alf Long 492 Sunbeam, 9 hrs. 02 mins. 06 secs.
1925 C. W. Bower 348 Douglas, 10 hrs. 34 mins. 13 secs.
1926 J. R. Gibson 299 O.K., 10 hrs. 28 mins. 50 secs.
1927 S. Flook 348 Douglas, 9 hrs. 34 mins. 40 secs.
1928 B. E. Scott 175 Chater-Lea, 10 hrs. 13 mins. 22 secs.
1929 J. G. Lind 350 A. J. S., 8 hrs. 8 mins. 19 secs.
1930 W. D. Griebenow 498 O.H.V. Sunbeam, 8 hrs. 30 mins. 28 secs.
1931 L. Taylor 248 T.S. Enfield, 9 hrs. 24 mins. 01 secs.
1932 B. E. Scott 175 T.S. James, 8 hrs. 30 mins. 29 secs.
1933 B. D. B. Kinsey 499 O.H.V. B.S.A., 6 hrs. 54 mins. 50 secs.
1934 D. Hall 350 O.H.C. Norton, 6 hrs. 44 mins. 4 secs.
1935 R. O. Hesketh 250 O.H.C. Excelsior, 6 hrs. 51 mins. 41 secs.
1936 C. Jarman A.J.S., 6 hrs. 51 mins. 7 secs.


1920 A. Long, Excelsior, 13 hrs. 34 mins. 08 secs. (run in opposite direction, Johannesburg to Durban)
1921 A. Long, Excelsior, 11 hrs. 26 mins. 55 secs.
The First Durban-Johannesburg Commemorative Motor-Cycle Trial sponsored by Mobil

Organisers - Vintage and Veteran Club, Rand Motoring Club


When the Vintage and Veteran Club was originally formed it was decided unanimously not to include the word "car" in its title in order that enthusiasts devoted to the preservation and restoration of motorcycles could find a home and solid encouragement within the Club. In all this we were cognizant of the fact that Gottlieb Daimler's first powered vehicle was a two wheeler.

In this spirit, right from the outset, every effort was made to recruit members devoted to this particular aspect of historic motoring. We were fortunate in having many car-owning members who also owned and restored motorcycles, but with time and patience the Club was eventually to recruit the real hard core of motorcyclists - those who are devoted principally to motorised two wheelers and nothing else. And what a happy day that was! Motorcyclists are a prideful lot, and rightly so; but they are also intensely helpful and co-operative. Accordingly, they are among the keenest of members, and their spirit and vision, their enthusiasm and self-example have benefitted the Club enormously.

It is probably fair to claim, therefore, that the Vintage and Veteran Club has the largest membership of vintage motorcyclists in the country, and this fact has done far more to encourage the preservation and restoration of suitable machines than any other organisation. It is with pleasure and pride that the Club has taken the initiative and together with the R.M.C. commemorated an historic race, the Durban to Johannesburg race, in the form of a trial.


The plaque that is to be unveiled on the 25th April, 1970, at 3 p.m., by the Mayor of Johannesburg, His Worship, Sam Moss, to mark the finishing fine of the Durban-Johannesburg motorcycle race, is the first of many which we plan to erect to mark the history of motoring events in S.A. and we are indeed pleased to be associated with this great event.

The Historic Transport Association was inaugurated and founded in December, 1967. Our main object is to take care of the history of transport in all forms and to endeavour to preserve historical items and material relating thereto whether these items be cars, horse-drawn vehicles, aircraft, trains or space travel vehicles. Since our foundation we have undertaken a number of ventures, highlighted by various car outings and by our 30th Anniversary Blue Train to Cape Town and by trips by train to Rustenburg and Swartruggens.


The Rand Motoring Club, like most other clubs and associations that have histories exceeding half a century, has had its ups and its downs. From an extremely active period between the two world wars when it organised the annual Durban-Johannesburg motor cycle races as part of its very full programme of motor cycle events, it passed into a postwar period where all club activities were suspended due to complete lack of support due to petrol rationing and non-availability of machines and parts.

The club records date back to 10th May, 1906, when it was known as the Johannesburg Motor Cycle Club. At this time open road events, including races, hill climbs, economy runs were organised for members and cash awards were paid to the winners.

The club's records reveal a gap between August, 1909 and 9th February, 1911, when the club was re-constituted as the Rand Motor Cycling Club. From this stage the club's activities increased and members enjoyed a period of well-organised and supported events by both competitors and the trade. This activity continued until the outbreak of World War II. The club did not confine its activities to motor cycle events, but took a strong interest in motoring and motoring laws in South Africa at that time.

In 1913, the club organised the first motor cycle race between Johannesburg and Durban. This event was a resounding success and was organised every year thereafter up until 1936 (except for the war years of 1915 to 1918), after which the administrators of the Transvaal and Natal refused permission for the event to be held due to the high speeds and increasing congestion on the roads.

The club's present name was adopted in the 1930s as it was then actively organising events for both cars and motor cycles. The Barberton Trial, an event first held in 1927 and which is still held annually today, was one of the club's first events organised for both cars and motor cycles.

The Club's activities in recent years have been devoted to organising motor car rallies, races and other competitive events as well as social functions for club members.

The club caters for all types of members, i.e. for those interested in simple motor rallies through to members who compete in the tough National Championship events, as well as for members whose main interests are in touring, gymkhana’s or even just social evening natters on motoring topics.

Persons interested in joining the Rand Motoring Club should address their applications to the Secretary of the club at P.O. Box 4976, Johannesburg, which box number, incidentally, the club has had since 1913.


No man in South Africa was better known in the field of motorcycling from 1911 all the way through to the late twenties than Percy Flook. Born in Cape Town in 1883, well-educated and well-spoken, he trained as an Electrical Engineer - an exciting new field in those days. But he was a man of incredible versatility, and his range of interests vast indeed. What sort of a man was it that excelled in so many fields; a musician who played clarinet in the Wanderers Bank at the age of eight; a gymnast as a youth; a pedal cycling champion before the Boer War and after it; a flower lover with magical green fingers; an investor in the electrical field; and a first-class cricketer. And ultimately, successful and wealthy businessman.

So that when Percy Flook entered motorcycling sport in 1911 it was inevitable that he should succeed. He won his first major race, from Johannesburg to Pretoria and back, over the foulest of track's, at an average of 19 m.p.h. and if that speed seems funny to us, one should remember that the race was so dangerous that an entrant killed himself. From then on it was a chain of successes. In his first nineteen starts, he won eighteen times. Road races, speed trials, hill climbs, he entered them all. In those days races of any great length were nearly impossible because there were no rideable roads, and also the single-geared, belt driven machines were hardly reliable enough for any kind of racing. So Percy Flook won, and won again, at places that are only vague memories now - the famous Muldersdrift Hill, Mountain View Hill (now Sylvia Pass), Observatory Hill, Black Reef Hill (the hill this side of Alberton). The comment of the Press of the day was accurate indeed: "Here is a youth who is bound to be in the front rank wherever motorcycling is on the go. He is ordained with an uncommon faculty for winning prizes."

His successes led the R.M.C.C. to sponsoring him to enter the Senior T.T. race on the Isle of Man in 1913. Their choice proved good indeed, and on a troublesome machine he came eighteenth out of a field of 110. Back in South Africa, Percy Flook entered the Johannesburg-Durban race in 1914, in 1919 (first), in 1920 (second), and he came tenth in 1922, first again in 1923, and entered again in 1924 and 1925. And in between these achievements he entered events all over the country, in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, Pietermaritzburg.

His activities were endless, his energy boundless. He invented an electrical timing device in 1921, which was used extensively. But the weight of years and the pressure of those younger than he was telling on him, and sensibly recognizing it, he started reducing his entries in competitive events from the mid twenties onwards. The Press, towards the end of his racing career, commented: "Wherever wheels roll and motorcycles foregather at the four points of the compass in South Africa and beyond its borders, this rider's name and fame are known." And also this: "The triumph of veteran rider Percy Flook who was believed by many to be past the prime of his racing days, has proved that his name is as good as ever."

So this great motorcyclist had progressed from pioneer to the peak of motorcycling success. He was a great man, but above all he was a courageous man. He died only recently, in 1964. It behoves us all to respect his memory.


If most of us could be as active - physically, mentally, and competitively - as Angelo Bernardi, at his age, we would be tough indeed, or lucky.

Born in 1903 in Piedmont, Italy, he was active in motor sport from the time he could tell a four-stroke from a two-stroke. He started motor cycle racing in 1921 at the age of 18 and was the youngest works team rider in Italy. When the Monza track was opened for the first time, Angelo Bernardi was there - riding for the Moto Galloni works team. He competed successfully in Italy until 1925, and on coming to South Africa, entered in his first Durban-Johannesburg race in 1926 on a 350 c.c. O.H.V. Raleigh. Again in 1927, he competed on a specially imported 500 c.c. O.H.C. Moto-Guzzi, a machine so fast that it was perhaps unsuitable for what passed for roads then. Its savage speed resulted in a crash near Volksrust and necessitated Angelo Bernardi's withdrawal.

It is extraordinary how many racing motor-cyclists turned out to be successful businessmen, and Angelo Bernardi must figure in the top brackets. He keeps himself young, while enjoying his retirement in considerable comfort, by maintaining his extensive and choice collection of the finest vintage cars and motor cycles. And with ail his tremendous friendliness and outgoing personality makes him known to all as Uncle Ben. He is the particular friend of the motor-cyclist and supports all vintage events.

Percy Flook
Angelo Bernardi
by Joe Mulraney Motoring Reporter.
Early nightfall took several of the competitors in the first Durban to Johannesburg Commemorative Motorcycle Trial by surprise last night and with only a few miles to go to Newcastle, traffic policemen ordered a halt until the aging veterans could be escorted through the gathering dusk to the overnight stop.

Reason for the enforced stop was not serious: Inadequate headlights of a bygone era were not up to the stringent requirements of modern traffic laws.

According to a spokesman for the Newcastle service station at which the competing machines were housed last night, the traffic authorities called a halt about eight kilometres (five miles) from Newcastle.

Motorcars were sent out to escort the hapless and benighted veterans to the town, and according to a later report, all of these affected reached the overnight stop safely.


Poor lighting was one of the least problems faced by the intrepid veteran cycle enthusiasts, today tracing the trail blazed across the Drakensberg to the Rand by hundreds of young riders earlier this century.

Main difficulty was unwilling machinery, tired after more than half-a-century  of use.

Fifty-three of the restored and refurbished two- and three-wheelers were sent on their way by the Mayor of Durban, Mr. Trevor Warman, from the Tollgate starting point yesterday.

Minutes after the start 51 were still running.

First to feel the effects of old age, was the 1926 New Hudson owned by Mr. John Badger of Salisbury in Rhodesia.

Lack of compression his downfall, coming a few hundred yards beyond the dreaded bends of 45th Cutting.

Mr. Oliver Barratt of Johannesburg receives a last-minute, clean-up from Disa Dunstan, who was on hand to help the riders when he set off for Johannesburg from Toll Gate, Durban, at the start of the commemorative Durban to Johannesburg vintage motorcycle "trial" today.

Only a few hundred yards further along the dual highway, Mrs. Judy Hayward was having trouble with her 44-year-old AJS, trouble which eventually; put her; out as well.

Her husband, Dr. Frank Hayward, was another to have troubles with his AJS. Engine seizure slowed him further along the line, but the doughty doctor managed to limp into the overnight stop at Newcastle.

Mr. Ernest Gearing's experiences with his 1925 Douglas will bring a nostalgic grin to the face of any oldtimer who rode in the DJ.

Five punctures, then no lights, then another puncture and that was the end of that. Darkness found Mr. Gearing sheltering in the home of a kindly farmer in the Mooi River district.


Punctures and electrical troubles also plagued Mr. Tony Taschner cf Krugersdorp, whose 1913 Clyno Colonial shares with one other entrant the honour of being the oldest permitted in the event.

Over and above the pneumatic and power problems, the Krugersdorp rider also ran into trouble with leaks from his petrol tank.

So bad were the leaks that he ended up riding with a bottle of fuel slung round .his neck, feeding the carburetter through a thin tube.

Several other contestants are also understood to have fallen out of the event, but no details were available from Newcastle late yesterday.

Finishers are expected at the City Deep finishing line in Johannesburg between 2.30 and 5.00 p.m. this afternoon.

Daily News Reporter

Many of the machines looked as if they were held together by a combination of chivalry and chewing gum.

Nevertheless a total of 53 vintage motor - cycles chugged away from Durban today on the long haul to Johannesburg.

For this was the start of the commemorative Durban to Johannesburg motor - cycle "trial," with the machines entered dating back to 1913.

Breeches, flying goggles and elaborate moustaches were the order of the day. But, somewhat incongruously, the competitors had to. conform to modern rally procedure and be clocked off to the exact second.

Modern crash helmets also looked a little out of place of such esteemed machines as Matchless and Moto Gum, warriors of the road.

Mr. Trevor Warman, The Mayor of Durban, started the first cycle on its way at 7.30 a.m. from Toll Gate, Jan Smuts Highway. Then, at two-minute intervals, each entrant followed with a puff of smoke and a bit of pushing.

The first of the famous DJ motor-cycle trials was held in 1913. In those days it took two or three days to arrive at their destination in Johannesburg. Indeed, in the very first rally one rider broke a leg and another fractured his jaw in the opening stages.

In 1936 the event was banned by the authorities due to "the higher speeds and increased volume of traffic" using the road. Diplomatically it meant the hardy machines were constituting a hazard to both themselves and other road-users.

Two of today's riders took part in the original event, Andy Zeeman, from Johannesburg, is competing on a 1934 Triumph, and Sam Collins, from Verwoerdburg, is vying for honours on a 1928 AJS.

Word has it that this was the world's longest and most arduous motorcycle road race. Entries in today's commemorative event come from all over South Africa as well as Britain and Rhodesia.

“Mercury” Correspondent

JOHANNESBURG. - Geoff Palmer, on a 1926 Royal Enfield, won the Durban-Johannesburg rally for old motorcycles, which finished at City Deep on Saturday afternoon.

The tussle for victory was as close as in the days of the out-and-out races between 1913 and 1936, which the rally commemorated.

Eighteen-year-old D. I. Brodie of Florida, who finished second on a 1934 Sunbeam, was less than a minute behind Palmer, of Johannes burg, when the competitors made their overnight stop at Newcastle on Friday.

He lost ground on Saturday, and then clocked in at City Deep five minutes too early, to lose by seven minutes.


B. Brody of Johannesburg, had the worst luck of all. He, was only 46 seconds behind Palmer at Newcastle, and by Standerton had reduced the gap to 29 seconds. He lost another four seconds at the next checkpoint, but seemed assured of second place, until the timing gear of his 1935 Velocette stripped only 15 miles from City Deep.

He had to be towed in by another competitor, and so did not qualify as a finisher.

Among the riders who qualified for finishers' awards - replicas of the medals awarded to finishers in the old-time races - was Mrs. Shirley Blaeser, of Vereeniging.

The other woman rider, Mrs. Judy Hayward, of Johannesburg, was put out of the running by defective valve gear on her 1926 AJS on the first day.



1. G L, Palmer, 1926 Royal Enlield, 5min 34sec error:
2. D I Brodie, 1934 Sunbeam, 12min 34sec;
3. P Theobald, 1933 Vllliers, 20min 17sec.

Oldest Rider to Finish: A Zeeman, 1934 Triumph.

Oldest Motorcycle to Finish: F Burke UK, 1913 Williamson.

Best Woman Rider: Mrs S Blaeser, 1931 Triumph.

Team Award: R C Osborne, 1930 Sunbeam: G L Palmer, 1926 Royal infield; D  Brodie, 1934 Sunbeam.

Best Performance by Motorcycles Built Before December 31, 1926:

350cc G L Palmer, 1926 Royal Enfield
500cc A B Whyte, 19JO ABC Sopwith
Over 500cc F Blaeser, 1924 Harley Davidson
Side-car Combination F Burken, 1912 Williamson

Best Performances by Motorcycles of 1927 to 1936:

250cc P Theobald, 1933 Villiers
350cc D Robertson, 1936 Velocette
500cc D I Brodie, 1934 Sunbeam
Over 500cc J G Thompson, 1928 Scott
Side-car combination R K Lange. 1930/31 AJS

Another breakdown, also near Henry's Cafe on the dual highway to Pietermaritzburg, was Mrs. Judy Hayward's 1926 AJS. Valve trouble was the cause of this stop, but it seemed at that stage that roadside repairs could be effected.

In this picture, Mrs. Hayward, left, looks on with a group of helpers as her husband, Dr. Frank Hayward tries to kick the reluctant AJS into life. Dr. Hayward is also riding an AJS in the trial.
Three competitors, Ian Brodie no. 7, 1928 Indian, E. van Zyl, no. 40, 1933 OK Supreme and Frank Galloway no. 32, 1928 Chater-Lea 550cc, pass through Cato Ridge on the first leg of the Durban Johannesburg Commemorative Motor-cycle Trial that started yesterday. Riders are expected at the City Deep finishing line in Johannesburg this afternoon.

Heartbreak.. and a long push home..
For Mr. John Badger of Salisbury, Rhodesia, the trial was soon over. His 1926 New Hudson came to a sudden stop near Henry's Cafe at 45th Cutting, not five kilometres (three miles) from the start at Tollgate.
ENGLAND-J’BURG... VIA PMBURG Intense concentration is seen on the face of Mr. F. Burke who came out from England to take part in the "DJ" motor-cycle commemorative rally. Here he push-starts his 1913 Williamson 962cc side-car outfit. Mr. and Mrs. Burke were passing through Pietermaritzburg with the 52 other competitors in the commemorative Durban-Johannesburg motorcycle trial.

The veteran motor-cycles set off from Durban yesterday morning and are expected to reach Johannesburg late this afternoon. The run is being tackled by entrants in a very different manner to that of the early "hell-raisers". The antiquated old machines are being treated with "kid gloves".

But when there was a race to be won in the early days, riders averaged about 50 mph over the roughest roads. Among their obstacles were gates, railway crossings and drifts across rivers.

The "DJ" was run from 1913 to 1936 when it was banned by the authorities because of the danger of using public roads at high speeds. The first overall time for the event was 14hr. 46min., set by A. W. McKeag. When the race was disbanded the record was 6hr. 44 min., set by D. Hall, in 1934. The distance over the various types of rural and tar roads, was 403 miles.

Two of yesterday's riders took part in the original event. They were Mr. Andy Zeeman, from Johannesburg (1934 Triumph) and Mr. Sam Collins from Verwoerdburg (1928 AJS). Other competitors were from all over South Africa and Rhodesia.

Sung by A.V. Baker, to the tune of "Riding Down From Bangor,” at the concert at the presentation of the Schlesinger Vase, following the victory of Percy Flook in the seventh motor cycle race, from Durban to Johannesburg, May 30-31, 1923.

Riding up from Durban
On a motor bike,
I wonder do you all know
What the feeling's like.
Racing up to Jo'burg
You look an awful fright,
The journey takes ten hours,
I'd sooner take a week.

Up to early breakfast;
I wonder what they eat,
Possibly an egg flip,
Or else a brandy neat.
Have they got the wind-up ?
Looking fit and fine,
Fifty gallant sportsmen
Face the starting line.

Look, here comes the two-stroke
The first to get away,
Five hours is his handicap,
Scratch man says - "Let's pray,
He will be in Ladysmith
Before my engine's warm.
Please God, send me sunshine
While he rides through the storm."

The grousing now is over,
The last man's had his cue,
Of fifty real good sportsmen,
Which dream will come true.
Someone hit a boulder,
Someone had a spill,
So the news is carried
From every little hill.

Someone lost his tool-bag,
And lost his temper, too;
Someone broke his handlebar,
And now he's in a stew.
One ran short of petrol,
One man hit a cow,
One man ran short of lots of things,
His language won't allow.

Now we get to Newcastle,
Halfway house - hurrah !
First make for the bathroom,
Then make for the bar.
Hear everybody's troubles,
Their "ifs" and "might have been";
If my aunt had wings, you see,
She'd be a Fairy Queen.

To-day has seen the finish,
And Hoffman's face all smiles,
Much better than the bruises
Of all the bumpy miles.
And now we know the winner,
A Pretoria boy, it's true;
So here's to our friend Percy,
And all the losers, too.

I've just been talking to the bhoys
Of what they'll ride-next year.
Bikes made of aluminium,
Tanks all filled with beer,
Engines from an aeroplane,
New gadgets all galore,
It's going to be some race, they say,
In 1924.

Certificate presented to Mike Milner-Smyth who finished the 1970 DJ Run on his 1925 AJS 348cc


Article appeared in Vintage Motor, Winter 1970

Photographs by Duckhams.

(Unfortunately the photos are poor due to the fact that they were scanned from a photocopy. If anyone has an original magazine please contact me, John Austin-Williams


There have surely been many rallies during the past years which were a tremendous success. The First Durban - Johannesburg Commemorative Motor Cycle Rally must be included as one of the finest. Of the sixty entrants only twenty one dropped out due to complete mechanical failure. They did however finish the rally after patching up their machines but were unplaced because of the rules. This in itself must indicate the success of this event - one which is now a regular feature in the V. and V. calendar.

The entrants who took part came from all over the country, Rhodesia and the Transvaal making up the biggest field. There were also two competitors from England and from their remarks, they have never enjoyed a rally more. It is hoped that in the next rally the Cape and Natal will be better represented - surely there are machines available, restored or otherwise.

The enthusiasm that this event generated, not only among the competitors but the general public as well, was fantastic. Having been associated with many sporting activities over a number of years, I have yet to come across another event that was so full of-life and enjoyment. This feeling began in the competitors' camp and spread to everyone who came in contact with the motorcyclist, it continued throughout the whole rally. To give an example of this feeling, a farmer driving between towns saw a competitor on the side of the road who had run out of fuel - the farmer, a complete stranger, syphoned petrol (Mobil of course) from his car! There were many more instances such as this.

Towns like Mooi River - Estcourt - Newcastle and Standerton will long be remembered by those who took part, for their friendliness and warmheartedness. Newcastle in particular - dusk was falling and many competitors were 'still on the road - without lights. An appeal to the local townsfolk and everyone came to the rescue, the youths on their mopeds and buzz-bikes, and car drivers, out they went, in some cases 10 miles and more to escort the entrants in. The Mayor of Newcastle had arranged a small welcoming party and what a welcome party, this seemed to go on all night, at one place or another.

The local Mobil dealer Kenward Motors deserves a medal of their own, they handed over their workshop to the competitors, in case anyone wanted to make some final adjustments and repairs and there were many, some almost rebuilt their machines.

The final proof as to the success was at the finish - several miles outside of Johannesburg with a reception by thousands - it was unbelievable! That evening at the prize giving some 200 odd persons attended, among these were descendants of the great Percy Flook, his brother and Percy's son. Councillor Sam Moss, Mayor of Johannesburg presented the trophies and remarked that everyone looked as fresh as daisies, after some 400 miles in the saddle.

This event will, next year, attract a still larger and more enthusiastic field. The fun will be there but I do not think that this event will ever again be able to repeat this first success. To MOBIL - once again sincere thanks - your sponsorship is unequalled and even if you* did deal out gallons and gallons (granted pint by pint) I am sure that your products will continue to add 'more miles' to the success of this rally
Mr. and Mrs. A. Bernardi leaving the start at Tollgate on their 1925 Moto Guzzi, unfortunately they retired just outside Standerton.
F.R. Galloway pulls in for fuel on his 1928 Chater-Lea.
Tony Taschner the unluckiest competitor — punctures, fuel trouble and valve trouble — you name it and he had it. 1913 Clyno Colonial.
Doug Brodie on his 1934 Sunbeam and a long and lonely stretch of road — Doug finished second with a time error of 0-12-34.
Mr. and Mrs. Felix Burke from England on their 1913 Williamson braving the early morning cold and enjoying the country side.
Peter Theobald on his rowdy 1933 Villiers leaves Estcourt after the lunch break — Peter finished third and collected the trophy that his client LAWSONS had presented.
A typical scene along the 400 mile route.
V. Reynolds from Rhodesia on the 1923 Harley-Davidson. This was one of the most immaculate machines in the rally.
Roy Watson on the 1928 Chater-Lea and W.F. Bell on a 1928 Scott pull in at one of the control points.
The 1932 Leyland fire engine from East London which accompanied the competitors - on its way to the James Hall Museum of Transport.
S. Collins on his 1928 AJS one of the keenest competitors - he was one of the original riders in this race.
The smiling winner of the event (although he did not know it when his photo was taken) Geoff Palmer on the 1926 Royal Enfield, his time error was 0-05-14.
The originator of this Commemorative run Dick Osborne arrives at the finish on his 1930 Sunbeam.