13th April 2011
92 vintage motorcycles reached the finish line of this arduous, 400 mile, two-day ride in South Africa. A 1930 Sunbeam took top honours, while a 1931 Rudge went up in smoke...
Martin Davis, riding a 1930 Sunbeam, scored a convincing win in the annual two-day South African rally for classic motorcycles which took place between Durban and Johannesburg in March 2011. Arriving bang on time counts for everything in this event, and the winner he had an overall error of just 192 seconds at the average speed time controls. This meant he finished 53 seconds ahead of last year's winner, Kevin Robertson (1936 Velocette)Kevin Robertson (1936 Velocette), winner of the 2010 DJ Rally, had to be satisfied with second place this time
Third place was filled by the 1934 Sunbeam Lion and sidecar combination of Adrian Hollis and his son Gerald, who were 6 seconds behind Robertson, with Mike Ward (1935 Velocette) a further 3 seconds in arrears. The first four finishers are all members of the Vintage Motorcycle Club.
All the competing motorcycles in the DJ Rally, which is the major event of the year for classic motorcyclists in SA, have to be 1936 or earlier models so they would have been eligible for the last road race between Durban and Johannesburg, held in 1936. The first of these popular races between the two cities was staged in 1913 and in 1936 the authorities decreed that racing on public roads was too dangerous, so this year's rally marked the 98th year since the first race was staged.Harold Pitchford at full chat on his 1926 AJS
In 1969 the late Dick Osborne, himself an avid motorcyclist, persuaded a group of fellow enthusiasts to organise a commemorative DJ Rally using the roads that made up the route of the original race. The first DJ commemorative rally took place in 1970 and it has been staged every year since then except for 1974 when the authorities refused permission due to the fuel shortage.
The format of the event has changed from a 'first past the winning post; road race to a competitive regularity rally where riders have to try and ride as close as possible to set average speeds. Their performances are monitored by hidden marshals placed along the route who take the time as each competitor passes a check point.
This year's finishing record of 92 motorcycles from 119 starters, out of an initial entry of 134, was surprisingly high considering the hot weather, the age of the motorcycles and the arduous nature of the route, which is particularly hilly on the first day, when the riders travelled from Hillcrest Corner, near Durban, to the overnight stop in Newcastle. By contrast when the event was held as a road race at the height of its popularity it was contested by as many as 500 competitors!
The only major incident during the 2011 rally was a burned out 1931 Rudge Whitworth motorcycle which caught fire when the engine backfired near Heidelberg on the second day. Rider John Allison was unharmed.A fiery end for John Allison's 1931 Rudge Whitworth
Edwin White was more fortunate as he was able to extinguish a blaze that started when the overfull tank of his BSA Round Tank dripped onto the spark plug.
The oldest man in the 2011 DJ, Stewart Cunninghame, who is 89 years old, put up an excellent performance on his 1930 Norton to finish in 10th position.
Ralph Pitchford, who was recently voted 2010 Motorsportsman of the Year by the SA Guild of Motoring Writers for his exploits over the years in the Dakar Rally, finished 11th overall on a 1926 Triumph after a tough first day when his low powered machine battled in the hilly terrain.Bev Jacobs (1935 Triumph) finished 15th overall and highest placed woman rider
Three women qualified as finishers, with Bev Jacobs (1935 Triumph) the highest placed overall in 15th position.Spotti Woodhead (right), of the Rand Motoring Club, presents the famous Schlesinger Vase to 2011 DJ Rally winner Martin Davis. On the left if Gwyneth Cronje, of the Classic Motorcycle Club
Although the DJ Rally is a Vintage and Veteran Club event, it was organised by a team from a number of organisations. Clerk of the Course Pierre Cronje, who is also chairman of the Classic Motorcycle Club, said he was very happy with the way the event ran and there were no protests.
The first 10 finishers were:
For more information see www.djrun.co.za
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