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13th March 2013

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The 2013 Johannesburg to Durban JD Rally

Roger Houghton reports on an amazing sixth win for Velo-riding Kevin Robertson in South Africa's premier classic motorcycle rally...

Kevin Robertson, a modest Velocette enthusiast from Pretoria, showed his outstanding ability on motorcycle regularity rallies when he won the three-day 2013 JD Rally from Johannesburg to Durban which finished at the coastal city on March 9 after overnight stops in Newcastle and Nottingham Road.

This was his sixth win in this international annual event which this year celebrated the centenary of the original road race between the two cities, which was first run in 1913. Twenty races were held before the authorities put an end to the event in 1936 by banning racing on public roads as being too dangerous.

It was then commemorated as a regularity trial from 1970 with all competing motorcycles having to be 1936 or earlier models. This year there were several machines that were more than 100 years old, with the two oldest, Humbers with pedal assistance, both completing the route.

Photo taken in Africa. Or the Fens. How do you tell?... The Pitchford brothers, Harold, Ralph and David, all finished in high positions, with Ralph 2nd, David 23rd and Harold 41st

The significance of competing in a centenary event was underlined by an entry of more than 200 riders, 17 of them hailing from outside the borders of South Africa. In the end 187 riders started the course, with 135 qualifying as finishers after the 750km regularity rally. This requires the riders to average set speeds over a winding route using secondary roads, many of them part of the original race route.

Robertson, who rode a 1936 Velocette MSS 500 which he restored to pristine condition himself, finished with a total error (early or late arrival at the 27 marshal points) of only 163 penalty points. This put him 31 penalties ahead of Ralph Pitchford, who rode a 1926 Triumph P-type 500 and is best known as a very successful co-driver in the Dakar Rally. Ralph rode with his two brothers, David (1936 BSA B2 250) and Harold (1926 AJS A5 350), who finished 24th and 30th respectively.

Isn't 'Zundapp' a great word?... Khaya Nkonyane, of the Blaque Diamonds Motorcycle Club of Soweto, enjoyed his first JD Rally riding a 1935 Zundapp on loan from Peter Hall. He experienced electrical problems on the first day, but then completed the course. This was only his second rally and now he is keen to get his own classic motorcycle. Khaya normally rides a Honda Fireblade… Zundapp Stuff on now...

In third place was Andrew Lewis (1936 Norton Model 18 500), only 2 penalties behind, with Richard Lewis (not a relative, on a 1929 Sunbeam Model 5 500) a further 3 penalties in arrears in fourth position. Fifth overall was Stuart Ferguson with 200 penalty points. He rode a 1936 Velocette MAC 350.

Awards for the lowest scores on each of the three days went to Mike Ward (1936 Velocette MSS 500), 35 points on Thursday, Ron Tomsett (1933 BSA Blue Star 500), 59 points on Friday, and Richard Lewis, 45 points on Saturday.

Eleven women entered the event and at the finish the best placed was Beverly Jacobs, who rode a 1935 Triumph 2H 250 to 47th place overall. One woman rider who showed enormous determination to get to the finish was Samantha Anderson, who had to contend with a broken frame and lots of pedalling to reach the finish line in Hillcrest on her 1909 Humber 500 pedal cycle.

Now this *doesn't* look like the Fens... Dutch riders Herman Vossen (left) and Pam van Kappel brought their classic bikes from the Netherlands to compete in the JD Rally. The motorcycles are a 1926 Husqvarna 180 560 and a 1928 Indian Scout 101 750

Hans Coertse fared best of the riders on these 100-year-old machines, taking 62nd place on his 1911 Humber.

The 2013 JD Rally, like all its predecessors, had many stories of heartbreak and disappointment for the competitors who not only had to contend with at times fractious machinery, but also weather conditions that ranged from scorching heat to mist, rain and even some hail.

Ron Tomsett was very well placed initially aboard the 1933 BSA Blue Star of his friend, Gavin Walton, who had been seriously injured in a road accident before the event. The Ron himself was involved in a collision with another competitor on the Saturday. Both ended up colliding with the Armco barrier and going over the handlebars and down the embankment. Neither was injured but it put an end to Tomsett's challenge for victory. There were a number of other mishaps, but fortunately nobody was seriously hurt.

Great number plate... Alastair Gibson, the South African who was formerly the Chief Mechanic on the Honda F1 team, on his father's 1936 BMW R5 Super Sport on the start line after the overnight stop in Newcastle

Alastair Gibson, the South African-born former chief mechanic of the Honda F1 team, had a good run on his father's 1936 BMW R5 500 Super Sport (one of only 12 of these high performance derivatives to have been made by the famous German company). This was the second year he has competed on this event and this time he finished 118th after losing a lot of time helping other riders with mechanical problems on the second day.

Another South African who is making it big in motorsport in Europe also made the pilgrimage to South Africa to ride in the centenary JD Rally. He is Brian Gush who worked first at Ford Motorsport in SA and then at Volkswagen SA's engineering department before being transferred to the powertrain division of Bentley in England. He is now the motorsport manager of that famous company.

Hello? Is that the RAC?... Brian Gush, who is now Motorsport Manager at Bentley in the UK, prepares for the restart. Brian rode 1931 BSA H32/9 550 that was loaned to him by Ian Holmes, the chairman of the Vintage and Veteran Club

Gush rode a 1931 BSA H32/9 550 loaned by Ian Holmes, chairman of the Vintage and Veteran Club. He finished 96th overall after picking up plenty of penalties on the Saturday, but said he very much enjoyed the experience.

The actual finish of the rally was in Hillcrest, but on Saturday afternoon there was an impressive commemorative mass ride to a civic reception outside the Durban City Hall where the original race had either started or ended.

The historic event was staged under the auspices of the SA Vintage and Veteran Association (SAVVA) and organised by a committee comprising members of many clubs with Pierre Cronje, chairman of the Classic Motorcycle Club, as the clerk of the course.

2013 JD Rally Top Ten Finishers

  • 1 Kevin Robertson 1936 Velocette 500 MSS, 163 points
  • 2 Ralph Pitchford 1926 Triumph P-Type 500, 192
  • 3 Andrew Lewis 1936 Norton 18 500, 194
  • 4 Richard Lewis 1929 Sunbeam Model 5 500, 197
  • 5 Stuart Ferguson 1936 Velocette MAC 500, 200
  • 6 Geoff Johnson 1928 Sunbeam Model 7 500, 217
  • 7 Dane Fraser 1935 Ariel Red Hunter 500, 224
  • 8 Martin Davis 1930 Sunbeam Model 9 500, 227
  • 9 Sean Crookes 1935 Excelsior Manxman 350, 230
  • 10 Mike Ward 1936 Velocette MSS 500, 235

    Are we having fun yet? Man at front left of centre says not...

    Photos by Ian Groat

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