The Classic Motorcycle Rally

Article and images from The Rand Daily Mail Newspaper, Monday May 1, 1978
Pinkie tames the "tigers" to win "Mail" Castrol D-J
Pinkie van Rensburg of Verwoerdburg, riding a Velocette and who time, beat all the 'ti to win the Rand Daily Mail Castrol D-J commemorative run on Friday and Saturday. At 21 he is the youngest winner of the run commemorating the historic Durban-Johannesburg races of 1913 to 1936.

He beat Jim Stead, of Johannesburg and on a 1928 BSA, by 22 seconds. Pinkie's father Chris van Rensburg was third on a 1932 Sunbeam, 17 seconds behind Stead.

There was a ding-dong struggle between the leaders throughout the event, which is run as a 600km, two-day regularity teal for •pre-1937 motorbikes. Less than two minutes separated the top seven at the finish.

Consistently accurate riding on the final 250km across the Highveld from Volksrust brought Pinkie up from sixth place at overnight stop in Newcastle.

Mrs Betty Richmond who was leading at Volksrust on a 1934 Triumph, dropped to fifth because of errors at two checkpoints between there and Standerton. Similar errors dropped Peter Theobald on a 1928 Sunbeam, who was third at Newcastle, to 11th at the finish.

Pinkie bought the Velocette from a Johannesburg enthusiast last year. When the family went overseas on holiday in December, 'he-stayed at home to rebuild the bike and get his riders licence.

All his family are D-J enthusiasts. This was his father's third D-J. and his mother, Stephanie, has ridden in two, and his sister Rhoda, in one. Pinkie himself, though this was his first motorcycle event, has competed in car rallied both as driver and as navigator.

Getting their old bikes to the finish was even more important than winning for all the competitors. Out of 127 who started in Durban on Friday morning, 108 qualified for finishers’ awards by completing the run under their own power.

"I can't believe the magnificent condition of the old bikes. The competitors deserve medals for it - and for riding them all the way up from Durban” said “Baby” Scott, one of the only two men to score two wins in the original races.

Mr Scott; whose first win was in 1928 - 50 years ago - was a guest of honour at the finish and at the prize-giving dinner. Derek du Toit who won last year on a 1920 Harley Davidson, gave up his chances of a double to ride an underpowered 1910 FN that was the oldest bike on this year's run.

He had so many troubles that he scored maximum penalties at 10 of the 16 checkpoints, but made it under his own power to qualify as a finisher and take the awards for the oldest bike to finish and on age-performance index.

Dr Frank Hay ward, a highly competitive rider and potential winner, abandoned his hopes to spend 17 minutes helping one of the woman riders, Miss Amanda Nettleton, who was in trouble. He received the special Rand Daily Mail award for the most sporting competitor.
Attractive Claire Lange Smiles with pleasure as she puts her 1936 DKW through its paces as it swoops through a twisty bit.
Coen Deetlefs uses footpower to help his straining 1913 Rudge Multi up Laings Nek Pass, but in vain - it blew up.
Tony Taschner used a plastic container to jury rig a substitute for the leaking fuel tank of his 1913 Clyno, and finished

Article from SA Motorcycle News June 1978.

Neil Smith reports on the 1978 D-J VINTAGE TRIAL
Pictures by Robert Matzdorff

April is traditionally "D.J." time, when the biggest event in the Vintage Calendar takes place and South Africa's "old-timers" gather to re-live  the excitement of the Toughest in the World Road Race that used to run between Durban to Johannesburg: 'til finally stopped by the Police  in 1936 due to the dangers of normal traffic sharing the same road space as the "boys". This year was no exception, and the last week-end  in the month saw a build-up of twelve dozen glittering veterans collecting at Durban's Holiday Inn. The oldest was a shaft-driven 4-cylinder  "Super Bike" of 1910... (a Belgian-made F.N. which looked as if taken straight out of the show-room - carrying a price-tag that would buy  you 3 or 4 of the priciest machines on the market). The first dozen bikes were all "pre-War" - the 1914-18 one - and painted a fascinating  picture of Great-grandpa's idea of Heaven: a splendid chapter in the history of Road Transport and a line-up of names now long forgotten:  Precision - Rudge (a 750 cc SINGLE cylinder!) - Enfield - Bradbury - Clyno - Indian - Douglas. Any engineering student could have spent hours studying the mechanical details to see the beginnings of the technological explosion which was to be triggered by the War in  Europe and would continue for a half-century into the Space-Age.

The early examples were mostly just "gas engines" stuck into a heavy-weight bicycle frame without even the benefit of clutch or gears  whereas the most "modern" were fitted with multi-cylinder motors and proper gearboxes, brakes and steering that are quite adequate even  for present-day use and might be ridden by any competent "biker".

The rest of the "field" was made up with the machines of the twenties and thirties and covered the full range of Grand-Dad's (and maybe  Dad's) choice. From 150 cc "Tiddler" to 1500 cc in-line Four and examples of practically every design except the "Square-4" - gentle touring  bikes and real gut-shifting racing ones. One of the latter was a beautiful Excelsior that carried Roy Hesketh to victory in 1935.

A fair estimate of the current value of these beauties would be a quarter million rand - but you'd be LUCKY to persuade even one of the  proud owners to part with his particular "baby". Some of the RIDERS were as "choice" as their machines and half-a-dozen dated back to the  REAL DEEJAY.

Harry Williams of Klerksdorp, who rode a flat-tank Norton in 1934, jovial Viv Lyons who had a side-valve Triumph in '29, big Piet van der  Merwe of Potgietersrus used a Velocette in his time (but cannot find one now), Jock Fergusson of Benoni still riding A.J.S. just as he did in  '26, Harold Hall of Durban was an Excelsior rider in the thirties - now he's on a B.S.A., and a special mention for Chappie Chapman... he was  a non-starter in the '32 race but nowadays turns up for every one of the "trials", riding the very same machine - a "hairy" racing AJAY.

Well on into their "sixties" (maybe even "seventies"), every one of these lads is meaning to enjoy himself, the challenge to whet their  appetite and they get younger by the minute as they await the starter's flag!

Come along with me - I'm riding a 1928 Scott, water-cooled, 2-stroke twin. (MY choice - never mind the Grandpa!) As I recount my own  experiences you'll maybe get some idea why the Deejay has a very special place in my own way of life and why I've never yet missed the  chance to take part.

As soon as I arrive in Durban I'm greeted as a friend by scores of other riders that I see only once a year, every one sharing our common  interest and every one a companion I'm glad to share the road with. The wonderful Deejay magic begins to work for me as I line-up for my  riding numbers and receive a bountiful present of chain-lube, oils and hand-cleaner (plus cut-rate riding gear) from CASTROL, who, together  with the Rand Daily Mail, sponsor the run and make it possible at minimum expense to the competitors. (They ALSO give us some LOVELY  parties!)

Whilst waiting for the Scott to be scrutineered (having ridden down from Salisbury, as usual, I've had plenty of time to sort out any snags  and I know the bike's in good fettle) I have time for a good look around and, sure enough, I felt pretty smug to watch some of the frenzied  work going on in the "pits". Elementary faults showed that a good proportion of the entries are not in regular use... wheel spindle nuts  dropping off - inoperative brakes (!) and loose control levers slipping round the handle-bar at a mere -touch. Some good-hearted know-all  should really give a spot of fatherly advice (Job for the Clubs?). Enthusiasm is wonderful - but it has to be tempered with discretion. A few  hints on "how to prepare the bike for competition" could possibly save a life or limb later. Even the most experienced lad makes a few  mistakes and a printed "aide-memoire" need not be looked upon as paternalism. I can say with certainty that the SCRUTINEERS would more  than welcome such a move. In the absence of any such arrangement I'll offer here and now my personal recipe...
Before the "off" you must personally physically touch every visible part of the machine. (Best way is to hand clean it.) You must inspect all  joints or brackets for the tell-tale "rust marks" that show something is loose or fretting. You must spin the wheels to make sure they're free  and running true and squeeze every pair of spokes to check the tension. (Quite a job with a Rudge MULTI which has no less than 80 spokes in the back wheel! They used to say that the builders let loose a canary to check their work. If it got out some of the spokes were missing!  Mind you - the punch of 750 cc in a single cylinder must have warranted the insurance of extra spokes. Even then they loosen off and need  re-tensioning.)

The magneto must be inspected against oil contamination (particularly in the case of Velocettes) and the plugs and valves checked for  overheating and correct gapping. The chains should come off and be boiled in lanolin or chain grease, loose spring links shoved in the  emergency spares kit and the NEW links made safe by "mousing". (At least that's what a "rigger" would call it - a thin strip of tin-plate is  pushed behind the spring clip and bent over.) This stops the clip from ever slipping off and also provides a buffer against wear.  Recommended and fully guaranteed.

Every cable must be looked at to make sure it's not rusty at the nipple end and no strands have broken, also to ensure it doesn't get  trapped by the front forks! Brake linings must be taken out and any more than ¼ worn replaced. If you bond on new liners remember (I forget this) Vintage brake shoes are often a bit flimsy and distort under heavy braking. This can break the bond between shoe and lining -  so put in a few rivets on the "belt PLUS braces" principle.

Steering head and fork links must have the bare minimum of free play and every brazed up connection, particularly at the steering head,  .must be minutely examined for fractures.

When you reckon you've looked at every single item that might let you down, you're ready for the main task - a road run of certainly not  less than 50 miles to get the motor thoroughly warmed up and stir up all the rust in the petrol tank.

Enough of that... let's get on the road.

This year the run was blessed with sun and blue skies; just the faintest early morning nip, but not enough to warrant a jersey. It made  Durban (normally stifling to us who live in the high country) quite bearable even waiting around in riding gear. A new start point on the sea- front and a straight run past the old Fort saved us from the hassling early business traffic and, but for care needed in finding the correct  route (a mistake lands you in an inescapable one-way system and puts you right back at the start!), we had a clear run through to Kloof  and the start of "regularity sections" into the Thousand Hills. Some slight mist and smoke but generally the scenery was quite lovely - the  roads were empty and it was true "motorcyclists' weather". Roads were not slimy or damp, even under the trees up along Bothas Hill and all  the way to Drummond. Except for the excellent road surface you could imagine yourself right back in the late twenties.

A number of early runners were spotted doing roadside adjustments, including Du Toit on the venerable F.N., but it couldn't have been too  serious as they all seemed to reach Jo'burg next day. A stop for petrol at Pietermaritzburg was combined with a freshment stop for the riders  and. as most of us had skipped breakfast to watch the early start, the hot coffee and hot-dogs (particularly) were welcome. A hard pull up  Town Hill followed and I saw Doug Berry struggling to get the single-gear Precision over the hump. (I think he only gave in when the  crankshaft broke- in two) After that it was, for the Scott, a very pleasant and easy run to Mooi River, past Lions River to Nottingham Road,  on the old Race Route all the way and finally down Griffins Hill into Estcourt where lunch was provided at the Hotel.

After lunch, on the way up to Newcastle, some serious maladies became apparent - Peter Eraser's Sunbeam "Piston broke", Chappy  Chapman with D-shape wheels (No-ways daunted, he fitted new tubes to re-join us for a triumphant entry to Johannesburg.) Several of the  Birds were in trouble mechanically but as they had hosts of willing helpers, I had no excuse to stop! Another of the GENUINE D.J. riders was  out, bad luck, as Viv Lvon's Indian had expired early on. Even my own well-travelled Scott seemed to be labouring as the afternoon sun got  lower. As I reached the final control and touched the brakes the back wheel locked solid. A bit of lining had come adrift and the other shoe  had 1½ linings! Willing hands dragged the bike into Parque-fermé and I had it sorted out in time to join the party at Holiday Inn. (Biggest  problem was in stopping people from "helping" me.) Had it happened a half-mile sooner I'd have joined the non-finishers because no way  could 1 have made it within the time limit. Smith's luck once again?

It was a VERY nice party - the enthusiastic hostesses plied us with champagne and black velvet and Holiday Inn really went overboard to  make the scores of (mostly scruffy by then) motorcyclists welcome and by dinnertime the restorative effects of the "muti" were evident.  (There were even a few bleary eyes next morning when we set off on the final leg to Jo'burg.)

I found the usual difficulty in keeping to the required set speeds whilst negotiating the climb up Majuba and Laings Nek, and the secret time  check had been placed at quite a new spot - which caught out a lot of us! But, generally speaking, the second day is a quite  straightforward piece of timekeeping provided the machine is running properly and the only real event of note is the welcome and very well  prepared lunch, courtesy Round Table, at Standerton. I always make a beeline for the hot soup, but a lot of my fellow riders preferred  bottled chicken.

Then on, and finally Alberton is in sight. The crowds of spectators thicken at the roadside and we plod carefully onwards to the Golden City.  Finally, a maze of traffic lights and then turn into the new Market complex at City Deep. My finisher's award is secure and yet another Deejay is nearly over. Not quite... because there's still one more party! At Carlton Centre this year, where a surprisingly tidy-looking bunch  of motorcyclists gather to collect their awards in the large, well-appointed Ballroom.

To my great joy I'd been placed at table with "Baby" Scott - only man to ever win the race twice. He was in top form and clearly delighted  to be amongst such a crowd of enthusiasts. Wouldn't take a lot of urging to get him back on two wheels?

Such is the charisma of the Deejay that no less a personage than the Minister of Tourism and Community Development - the Hon. S.J.M.  Steyn - graced this final party AND recounted his own somewhat painful memories of motorbikes!

Results have already been published so I'll merely remark that of 127 who actually started, 114 were classed as finishers within the time  limit.

This EIGHTH D.J. was undoubtedly the best organised ever. Certainly the weather was the best yet and, almost equally certainly, every one  of this year's runners will be queuing up for next year.

As a Scott rider I'd just like to draw attention to two of the others who used the same make of machine - John Fletterman who was getting  along very well indeed with his quite beautiful 1926 two-speed model until the magneto disintegrated and Peter Aneck-Hahn (Clerk of the Course in earlier years) who rode Doug Berry's recently-restored Flyer. Only a very short time back this machine was a tiny pile of corroding  rubbish and it reflects great credit on the restorer that Peter was able to finish amongst the top men and receive the award for the best  performance on a Scott. I was myself slightly involved in finding some of the missing pieces and I know just what the task of rebuilding a  "basket case" amounts to. Well done, Doug and Peter.
Apie Venter - 1921 Ace four cylinder in-line 1285cc
Guzzi 500 Single. Note the "flat" motor and big outside flywheel. Overhead exhaust valve, inlet side-valve.
Dan, who has worked for Rubes Motorcycles in Johannesburg since about 1920, poses proudly on a 350cc Cotton. Here, alive again, are many of the old bonies he remembers unpacking years ago.
Italo Benetti - 1928 Guzzi 500 with a non-vintage sidecar.

By Jack Skipp VMCC-UK

Taken from the SAVVA Automobilist magazine 1978

I suppose it can be said to have all started at the 1977 TT. Watching the races in the usual near-arctic conditions of summer at the Bungalow with several South African VMCC section stalwarts, I mentioned that I was planning a holiday in South Africa in 1978.

There was unanimous acclaim for such a sensible idea, but it was pointed out that the only time to visit was in April which would coincide with the running of the D-J Rally and what a splendid finish to a holiday it would be if entries could be arranged for my son Roger and myself. Mundane considerations such as "what about a bike" were waved aside and undertakings made to arrange the necessary hardware. All that was left for me to do was to get to South Africa on the basis that machinery would be available.

This being agreed, Colin Oakhill undertook all the organisation and paperwork concerned with getting entries accepted and pressganged Peter Blackwell into providing his BSA for my use, whilst Doug Berry arranged to provide his Sunbeam for Roger. The BSA "Sloper" required a complete rebuild (by Colin) and resulted in a very smart end product. Transportation of the bikes to Durban was organised by John Simpson and we were in business.

Ultimately we arrived in South Africa and the three of us, my wife Margie, Roger and myself, set off by hired car from Johannesburg to visit the Cape as the first stage of the holiday prior to finishing up in Durban to compete in the D-J.

We went via Kimberley, visiting the Mine Museum and the Big Hole before tackling the long trip across the Karoo. This is not to everyone's taste judging by the often heard remark that the Karoo is miles and miles of nothing in particular. (Not exactly the words used but they convey the same meaning).

However, I find the Karoo has a fascination of its own and suspect that no visitor could be unmoved by the distance involved, the straight roads, the sense of isolation and the clarity of the atmosphere which produces horizons of depths unimaginable in Europe.

The days flew in Cape Town and all too soon we were on the road again to spend sometime in the George district before returning to Johannesburg.

Back on the Reef we got down to the motor cycling part of the holiday, starting with participation in the Breakfast Run out to the Magaliesburg. We had read of this event and taking part proved as memorable as reports led us to expect.

The days immediately prior to the D-J were spent looking at the bikes assembling for the event and in sorting out the inevitable last minute drama, which in my case involved the sorting out of the "electrics" of the B.S.A. As electrical matters are not only a closed, but a sealed book to me I was grateful for the assistance of a doctor friend of Roger's who, with admirable professionalism, diagnosed the trouble, prescribed the cure and carried out the operation to correct the problem.

Came the great day and after being interviewed at the start by Radio Durban, I chugged off on the 400 or so miles journey.

Roger had been having his problems concerning the lubrication system on his Sunbeam, and it was a very disconsolate figure I caught up with around Gillits. All the oil had vanished and things looked pretty bleak. He intended to buy a can and take it along to replenish the bike as required, and I had to leave him to it.

The run up through the Valley of a Thousand Hills to Pietermaritzburg was quite delightful and the weather, contrary to some past D-J's I believe, was beautifully sunny and warm. Despite this, though, the temperature when the road was in shadow, was surprisingly chilly.

It was on this stretch that I ran true to form and managed to get temporarily lost. It occurred where we left an ordinary road to join a motorway and I got mixed up with a one-way system. However, a friendly African constable came to the rescue and held up the traffic while I executed an illegal turn and passage up the wrong way of the system to get on to the motorway.

Pietermaritzburg was the first refuelling stop and on re-starting I had the first signs of the ultimate disaster which I finally met. The bike just would not start, and when it finally did I climbed on board with a red mist hovering over my eyes and a distinct shortness of breath. In this state I climbed the hill out of Pietermaritzburg, passing John Simpson on the way who was literally collapsed across his single speed Rudge having failed to climb the hill despite his applying more than a little LPA. I couldn't stop to commiserate as my own physical state was more than a little below par and I rode on.

The starting problem got worse at each refuelling stop and seemed to consist of a tight motor, yet once started, by dint of roping in more or less enthusiastic assistants, including at one stage Dick Osborne himself, there were no obvious signs of piston seizure.

Finally, as the shadows grew larger and the air distinctly cooler, Newcastle was reached and the bike stored for the night whilst the pleasures of the Holiday Inn, including a champagne/orange juice party helped restore the tissues.

Next morning all efforts to start proved of no avail and an inquiry into the reason for a complete absence of sparks revealed that the magneto armature had sheared. In this way I learnt the meaning of the term "sheilacitis", which malady is practically unknown in the lower temperatures of the UK.

There followed some intense activity involving arousing John Simpson from his bed (complete with hangover) to secure his agreement to take the magneto off his spare BSA which he had taken down to Durban and seriously jeopardising the computerisation of the Rally results by utilising Doug Berry, who was responsible for getting results from check points to the computer terminal, in a frantic effort to substitute magnetos. All to no purpose however, as the drive gear centres did not match.

Finally it was decided to refit the magneto to John's "spare" BSA for me to ride this up to Johannesburg thus at least giving me the satisfaction of riding the whole distance, even if not qualifying as a finisher. This I did and arrived with a great sense of achievement.

In the meantime Roger had sorted out his lubrication problems and had come to terms with the physiological difficulties of using a lever-controlled throttle and hand gear change for the first time in his life, not to mention further complications arising from the Sunbeam having its clutch and front brake levers on the same handlebar, and successfully qualified as a finisher.

Later that evening, at the Post Rally Party, I was surprised and delighted at being awarded the Hard Luck Trophy, really the pleasure of competing and riding the total distance was reward enough, whilst Roger picked up his well-earned Finishers Award.

Looking back, after our return home, a variety of thoughts recur. We remember the unique atmosphere of the D-J and the friendliness of all with whom we made contact. The vintage motorcycle movement in South Africa is obviously in good hands, the organisation of the Rally was magnificent both along the route and in the speed with which computerised results were available at the over-night stop and at the finish. The standard of restoration of the bikes entered was extremely high indeed, even if some of the liveries were not exactly as original. This is a minor criticism however, and more than outweighed by the overall standards. It was nice too, to see vintage enthusiasts of cars and bikes fraternising" and sharing club premises.

Finally we were pleasurably surprised at the cost of hotel accommodation and meals, which were in general much lower than those in the UK or Europe.

We will certainly make every effort to make a return visit to, hopefully, compete in the D-J and will be singing the praises of the event in the hope that other entrants from the UK may be forthcoming.

by Derek du Toit, Crankhandle Club

Colin Oakhill's interesting article in the most recent Sava Automobilist points to some of the areas that an aspirant DJ winner should concentrate on. The DJ is obviously the most competitive old motorcycle event in the world and is also the most demanding and as such anybody wishing to do well in this event should play a percentage game. By this is meant that he should put as many factors that contribute to this fascinating run in his favour as he possibly can.

As the DJ's have been such a complete test of the man, the machine and the system he uses to arrive at the right place at the right time, it is necessary to get all three into as optimum shape as possible - it is the difficulty of getting any of these to work exactly right at a given time that makes this event such a demanding one. Perhaps we can look at the individual items one at a time.


Big - the bike needs to be of 500 c.c.'s and over and although only one American machine has ever won the modern DJ, the brief experience I have had with motorbikes makes me feel that you are increasing your chances if you have an American machine. They are simple, very rugged and mostly of 750 c.c.'s and over. You should not be worrying about whether the machine is over-heating going up Town Hill and in fact should go up Town Hill in top gear. Modern - no matter how big and powerful your machine you are not going to be really well unless you have such creature comforts as a three-speed gearbox, brakes that work, chain or shaft drive and a comfortable ride. Reliable - the bike must be mechanically sound and utterly reliable - this usually means that you have to restore the machine yourself one hundred percent. Finally, it should have reasonable handling and pretty well track by itself as it is not much fun fighting a bike every inch of the way from Durban to Johannesburg.


The system you use to arrive at each kilometre, check point and control at the time that you should, needs to be easy for you to understand. You should have one digital master watch from which you do most of your timekeeping backed up by a digital stop watch hung around your neck for checks between kilometres - keep it running over as long a period as possible and do not fall into the easy trap of stopping it and re-starting it every kilometre, this just leads to an ever accumulating error. This bad situation can be avoided if you have ten consecutive kilometres printed out for every speed you are likely to use on a small roller on your control box. This will allow you to set your stop watch at a kilometre and run along each kilometre, turning the roller one kilometre at a time until you get to 10 The process can then be repeated. Finally, one needs one's route schedule on a roller system with critical items high-lighted in blue and red Koki ink. It is in fact surprising how accurate one can get on a motorbike using these simple aids because one of the advantages a bike has on a car is that the driver can tell by the vibrations coming up from his posterior how fast he is going to a very fine degree.


You need to be experienced and at home on your machine as well as completely au fait with the system and confident that your machine will do its task uncomplainingly. This means practise, practise, practise. You need to be fit so that the acids of fatigue do not clog your brain and ruin your concentration. You need to like calculating, you must never give up no matter what problems beset you and you should also be able to read what is written on your route schedule. This is put in for those of us who are unfortunate enough to have to wear glasses as it is best to have sorted out what you are going to do when it rains beforehand, rather than finding halfway to Newcastle that you can't read a single thing.

The final item that is needed is luck and as Gary Player says, "The harder I practise, the luckier I get".

The above is an essence of observations made and questions asked over the last few DJ's and all point to the fact that the competition is hotting up every year.