FIM's Continental Union
for Motorcycling in Africa



Posted on March 6, 2019 at 1:35 AM

This year’s Durban-Johannesburg classic motorcycle regularity rally has attracted an entry of 78 riders which is less than expected, but what is heartening is that 16 of these competitors will be taking part in this famous event for the first time. The 2019 DJ Run starts at 06:00 on Friday, March 15, from the Colony Shopping Centre in Hillcrest, outside Durban, and will finish the next day at about 15:00 at the Classic Motorcycle Club’s clubhouse in Germiston after an overnight stop in Newcastle.

“We are delighted that there are so many newcomers on the 2019 DJ Run entry list as we need renewal in classic motor sport and this is happening this year,” said Ian Holmes, the Chairman of the Vintage and Veteran Club of South Africa, which promotes this international rally.

Noteworthy among the first timers are the Gillespie trio of father Peter and sons Alexander and Timothy. They will be riding three very different motorcycles from Peter’s collection, being a 1926 500cc Scott Super Squirrel (a two-stroke) for Alexander, a 1934 550cc Triumph for Timothy and a 1920 ABC Sopwith, with a horizontally opposed twin cylinder engine of 398cc, for Peter.

Peter Gillespie, who is a true petrolhead with a collection of classic Studebakers as well as a variety of racing cars, has also facilitated the entries of two riders from the United States, who will ride two of his other motorcycles. William Gilmore, a police patrolman from Houston, Texas, and a person who loves long distance rides all over the world, will ride a 1930 500cc Ariel Twin Port, while Mark Ward, a South African who emigrated to the US about 30 years ago, will be mounted on 1930 350cc AJS.

The entry for this year’s DJ Run may be slightly smaller than usual, but it still has many former winners in the field who will be seeking to add to their records on this prestigious event, riders such as Gavin Walton, Ralph Pitchford, Kevin Robertson, Martin Davis, and Allan Cunninghame.

Once again most of the motorcycles are a variety of British brands as they were the most popular in the days of the original DJ road race. The oldest motorcycle entered this year is a 1916 BSA K-Series which will be ridden by Steven Helm.

Early beginnings

The DJ Run has a long and impressive history. It all started in 1913, when Captain Lloyd and some friends hit upon the crazy idea of having a motorcycle race from the City of Gold (Johannesburg) down to the sea in Durban, some 403 miles along rough tracks in the veld, writes Ian Holmes. There was, generally, a non-existence of anything we might call a road today. Little did they know they were setting in motion an event that still evokes all kinds of emotions and activities every year around March.

The original race usually started on Union Day (31 May). Then, over the next three days, later two days and eventually one day saw intrepid motorcyclists attempting to cover the distance between the two cities as quickly as they could.

These days, of course, the event has a very different flavour, but a few common factors still exist. Firstly, the machines being used today must, in theory, have been eligible to have taken part in the original races. This means all machines competing in the 2019 DJ must have been manufactured on or before December 1936 which was the year the last race was run.

The second commonality is that, where possible, except for, principally, safety and of course the changes brought about by progress, the original route is followed as closely as circumstances permit.

Another great similarity is that, despite better roads, the present-day runners have the same challenges to cope with in keeping machines going. Add to this the fact that the newest machine participating today is 83 years old and so are some of the present-day riders!

Unfortunately, there is a new hazard facing the entrants too in the form of heavy traffic. Considering this it can be argued that the modern-day event is still the most challenging regularity rally in our country. It requires great concentration, focus and determination to set out on today’s DJ and stick at it all the way to the Reef. That has to be what brings many repeat riders back and attracts the healthy crop of first timers we are happy to have each year.

From the welcoming function at the Natal Old Car Club on the Wednesday evening to the buzz in the documentation area on the following day, preceding the start, the smiles on the faces bear testimony to people having a good time!

Once again on March 14, the old bikers and their steeds will gather in a shopping centre outside of Durban at Hillcrest (modern traffic conditions no longer permit a start at the City Hall as was past practice) for documentation and pre-event scrutiny of the motorcycles.

There will be speculation among the competitors about what this year’s Clerk of the Course, Larina MacGregor, has planned for them.

The weather plays a vital role as rain doubles the challenge straight away. Much reference to predictions on cell phones and TV is made and that is always the wild card in the game.

Initially the race ran from Johannesburg to Durban but, as the organisers were mostly based in Johannesburg, it was decided many years ago to start in Durban and run the commemorative rally inland.

The prizegiving was usually held in Johannesburg after the event and was a black-tie event where the magnificent Schlesinger vase was handed to the winner along with a stunning array of other trophies for various achievements. The organisers are extremely fortunate in having some of the original trophies including the beautiful 105-year-old Schlesinger vase which the winner gets to hold. The vase itself is a wonderful history of the event recording the names of all the past winners.

A great deal of history of these early races is available and there is an excellent website,, which has an account of each of the early races. The most talked about was the famous snowstorm run in 1921 when only three machines finished the course.

Published by: Roger Houghton

Categories: Leisure and Touring

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