The Classic Motorcycle Rally

Year 2000 Nedbank DJ
Report by Mike Milner-Smyth

Article appeared in the Classic Car Africa magazine, Volume 5 number 3, April 2000

The roadside cosmos stands high, and the Tibouchina trees at the coast are heavy with pink and purple blossoms. This means one thing - it's DJ time again!

Always held in early March, the Nedbank Durban-Johannesburg run is a motorcycle time trial that commemorates the famous races of yesteryear. From 1913 to 1936, the annual race between the two cities gripped the public imagination in the same way as the Comrades Marathon does today. This year's 30th running of the DJ Trial and its continued success is our collective tribute to one's forebears that were challenged by those dusty, corrugated tracks, now more than 65 years back. The modern event is accordingly open to motorcycles built up until December 1936.

Theoretically limited to 150 starters, this event must be the largest vintage motorcycle event in the world. The entry list is invariably oversubscribed and "DJ" fever reaches its peak as we gather at the Sanlam Centre, Pinetown, and again meet up with fellow enthusiasts from all around South Africa and Zimbabwe. It emphasises the great comradeship that has developed in vintage motorcycling over the years.

Interestingly, there were two machines entered that were actual winners in the DJ race series. Hew Hollard rode the Heidelberg Museum's 1926 AJS 350, which was originally owned, tuned and raced to success in 1936 by Cranley Jarman. Also entered was the 250cc Excelsior Manxman on which the legendary Roy Hesketh won the 1935 event.

Ian Brodie, at 87, kept his "full house" by riding in his 30th DJ, and the evergreen Viv Lyons, at 91, was passenger to Peter Posniak in the 1928 Harley combination. Of the 157 starters, there were 10 women riders and, encouragingly, several young first-time riders.

The oldest machine entered was Stuart Anderson's belt-driven 500cc Humber, ridden with "light pedal assistance" by Hans Coertze. Also among the "chainless wonders" was the 1920 250cc Excelsior on which Fritz Kraehmer gained a creditable 17th place and so won the trophy for the leading belt-driven machine.

Four of the late Cliff McArthur's Excelsior Manxmen are now owned and cherished by Alan Crookes, and they were again on the entry list. Alan rode the 1936 350cc machine on which the final DJ record time of 6 hours 5 minutes and 2 seconds had been established, and John Lefevre rode the 1935 winner. Sean Crookes on the rare 500cc model ended up as winner of the new Cliff McArthur trophy for the leading overhead camshaft machine.

With speedos and odometers sealed off, riders are required to follow their roll-up route schedules and maintain the stated (and ever-changing) average speeds by judging the heartbeat of the engine. Cross-checking one's speed against the kilo stones is useful, but in March these markers are invariably hidden by long grass or cosmos. Riders are penalised a point for every second early or late at a secret control, and the experts at this sort of event average about eight seconds error per control.

The pattern of previous DJs has been a hot Friday followed by a cool Saturday. This year, both days were extremely hot which is the main cause of 37 machines failing to do the distance. High heat usually shows up the frailty of 70-year-old magnetos, but this year there were an added number of cases of hot motors "nipping up" on some of the heavy Natal hills.

The rally scoring for a field of this size is a mammoth task and much credit must go to Dawn McLaren and her team for having the results out within hours of the close of each day's run.

The leaders at the halfway stage, which is the Newcastle overnight stop, were:

Stuart Fergusson, 350cc Velocette MAC, 57 points
Leo Middelberg, 350cc Velocette KSS, 62 pts
Adrian Hollis and Michelle Lange, 600cc Sunbeam Lion, 74 pts
Ric Lewis, 500cc Sunbeam Model 5, 76 pts
Martin and Edna Davis, 500cc Sunbeam Model 9, 96 pts

The event ended on Saturday afternoon at the James Hall Museum of Transport at Wemmer Pan, and each of the 120 finishers was handed a Nedbank finisher's medal on riding into the final control point.

This time we had two winners of the event. In first place was Adrian Hollis who, with sidecar passenger Michelle Lange and their 1935 600cc Sunbeam Lion, lost only 155 penalty points. Out of the 21 controls, Adrian scored three zeros and was just one second out on five other occasions. Right up there with them were previous winners Leo Middelberg (165 points) and Ric Lewis (171 points).

Because the main award goes to the leading solo rider, Leo Middelberg will go on record as the winner of the Year 2000 DJ. As in previous years, mid-Thirties Sunbeam and Velocette machines are the makes of choice of the leading rallyists, save for the occasional success of an Ariel. This year seven of the first 10 places were taken by Velos and 'Beams.

For the second time, the event was organised and managed on behalf of the Vintage and Veteran Club by Kevin Robertson, himself a three-time winner of the event on Velocettes. Ric Lewis has won the DJ three times on his 1929 Sunbeam Model 5, and Leo Middelberg has now won it twice on the 350 Velocette.

Mike Milner-Smyth


1 Adrian Hollis, Michelle Lange (1936 Sunbeam Lion 600cc), 155 points
2 Leo Middelberg (1936 Velocette KSS 350cc), 165 pts
3 Ric Lewis (1929 Sunbeam Model 5 500cc), 171 pts
4 Dane Fraser (1935 Ariel Red Hunter 500cc), 187 pts
5 Martin and Edna Davis (1930 Sunbeam Model 9 Combination), 193 pts
6 Barry Stead (1928 Norton 16H 500cc), 213 pts
7 Stuart Fergusson (1936 Velocette MAC 550cc), 222 pts
8 Paul Vink (1930 Sunbeam Model 9 500cc), 225 pts
9 Sean Crookes (1936 Excelsior Manxman 500cc), 229 pts
10 Tom Linley (1936 Velocette KSS 550cc), 242 pts

Dick Osborne Trophy (first overall): L Middelberg
WC Chairman's Award (second): R Lewis
VMC Chairman's Award (third): D Fraser
Restorer Hew Hollard with the ex-Cranley Jarman 1926 350cc AJS. Jarman won the final DJ race in 1936 on this machine.
Picture: Steven Lange
Oldest participant was Viv Lyons (91), who accompanied Peter Posniak (right) on his 1928 Harley combination. Picture: Liz Addison
Neville Smith (1936 500cc AJS) reaches the finish at the James Hall Museum.
Picture: Nedbank
Rex Hamilton aboard his 1930 350cc Calthorpe Ivory in the Balfour district. Picture: Basil Chassoulas