The Classic Motorcycle Rally

Report by Mike Milner Smyth VVC
The Veteran and Vintage Club held another successful running of the annual Durban-Johannesburg commemorative rally. Taking place over the 8th and 9th March, the organisation was in the capable hands of Tony Lyons-Lewis, who was also Clerk of the Course.

Started in 1970 to commemorate the famous races between the two cities, there have now been 26 of these commemorative rallies, which exceeds the number of times the original race was run.

With 150 permitted starters and a course length of 580km, this is indeed a major event on the competitions calendar.

Road safety was give special emphasis on this year's event. Each competitor wore a lime-yellow fluorescent bib, provided by the sponsors, and it is anticipated that riders will continue to use these in future events. NedCredit also supplied kidneybelts, which made some of us look decidedly slimmer.

More importantly, the organisers arranged the services of a full-time medical officer for the event. This was our favourite medico, Bill Van Dongen, who was taking a break from riding this year after many DJs, including five consecutive awards for riding the oldest bike to finish.

What really grabs my senses is a racing exhaust note, and the best of this year's crop was Karl Jensen's JAP-engined Royal Enfield. This was closely followed by musical bark of the megaphoned Excelsior Manxmen. And the best of those was Ian Melass' 350, which seemed to my ear to be barking at a consistent F Sharp.

Two of the riders had a "full house" in that they had now ridden in all 26 commemorative events. At 82, Ian Brodie (1934 Triumph) looked as fit and sharp as ever. The other was that congenial (Irish) Freestater Jim Mahaffey ('36 Ariel), who was placed 39th, and said it was now time to hang up his D-J boots. Also in the squad was Allan Wolmarans (1935 Norton) who has now done 25 of the 26 events.

There were four combination machines taking part. Martin and Edna Davis (1930 Sunbeam) won this section and were also third overall. Pieter Smit was enjoying his first outing in "the Fossil", his 1925 V-twin Matchless outfit, but a crack developed in the front cylinder and he had to retire at Newcastle.

Of the two Western Cape entries, Peter Mann ('34 B S A) came 77th, and Martin Kleve (who organised the 1995 fairest Cape Tour) came in 24th on his 1936 Triumph.

The lady riders had mixed fortunes. Sheila Stead ('28 B S A) came a credible 16th with 399 points, not that far behind husband Barry who was 4th with 252. Rosemary Mitchell came 79th on her 1928 B S A, while Barbara Allison ('23 B S A) managed a "DNF".

Bev Sloman on her 1935 Triumph needed fatherly encouragement from Larry Collins to get through some mechanical problems on the first day, and she finally can in 81st.

And there were some really tall guys on this rally! Lofty Pretorius at 6'1" relied on his 300cc OK-JAP to pull him along, while Keith Gunning at 6'5", cleared the bridges by riding the shortest bike in the rally, a 1936 Francis Barnett Cruiser. Henry Watermeyer, at half an inch less, had a more meaty Panther underneath him.

Of the father and son teams, there were two Kraehmers, two Cramers and two De Kramers, making no less than six descendants of the old German haberdashers! Len de Kramer took a tumble on the first morning, and in spite of severe pain from a broken finger on his throttle hand, soldiered on to finish in 114th place. The first day's run to Newcastle is characterised by the morning mists of Drummond, and a lot of hill work. The second day's run is comparatively flat, after the Majuba pass has been climbed.

At the Maritzburg fuel stop the belt-drive brigade were seen preparing for the tortuous Town Hill/Howick Road climb. Peter Van Dongen cut an inch out of his drivebelt (he was to do this three more times!) and Peter Spiers worked hard at getting the drive-pulley correctly adjusted on the 1910 Durkopp. Fritz Kraehmer had no belt problems, but with only two gears on the little Excelsior, he found it hard to maintain rally time on the hilly bits.

The second day saw some slightly cooler weather than the Friday afternoon, but there was a higher than usual number of retirements this year. Of the 146 riders who started from Pinetown, 28 were classified as non-finishers.

Averaging only seven seconds error per control, Leo Middelberg was the outright winner on a 1936 Velocette. It is now four years in a row that Velocette riders have won the event. Previous winner, John Linley, made an unfortunate navigation error on the Ladysmith section and this cost him a certain first place. Also Velocette-mounted, Stuart Fergusson came second, a mere 8 seconds behind the winner.

It was good to see the original Schlesinger Vase being presented to the outright winner. For security reasons, this beautiful 82 year old trophy may not be taken home by the winner, but Leo is no doubt very proud to have been photographed with it.
Leo Middelberg on his way to victory.
Peter Spiers earned a trophy for riding the oldest bike to complete the course, his 1910 Durkopp.
Tom Jones seems very happy with his 1930 Calthorpe.
Jim Mahaffey with his 1936 Ariel took part
in all of the 26 DJ Rallies
The winner, Leo Middelberg with his trophies.