Vintage riders celebrate DJ centenary

Bikes, Quads & karts

This weekend sees the running of the annual Durban-Johannesburg International Motorcycle Rally - or, to give it its more popular title, the 'DJ', which this year marks the centenary of the first motorcycle race on public roads between these two cities in 1913.

The rally started at 6am on Thursday (7 March) from the [email protected], near Carnival City in Brakpan, and will finish in Hillcrest on Saturday morning before a mass ride to Durban in the afternoon.

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Kevin Robertson counts the 2010 and 2012 Rallies among his five DJ wins on his 1936 Velocette.A group of riders at the start of the inaugural Johannesburg to Durban motorcycle road race in 1913.

Open to any motorcycle built before the end of 1936 (and there's a reason for that) it has attracted entries from Australia, Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United States and Zimbabwe and Ireland, as well as nearly 200 South African riders.

The rally follows the route of the original races for much of the way, with overnight stops in Newcastle and Nottingham Road. Riders are seeded in four average-speed groups and are penalised for early or late arrival at control points on the route.


They'll be riding more than 50 makes of motorcycle - many of them bearing names that have long since vanished into the mists of history. The most popular marque is BSA with 27 entries; this was once the biggest motorcycle manufacturer in the world but went out of business in the 1970s.

Brands still on the market that will be competing include BMW, Harley Davidson, Husqvarna, Moto Guzzi, Royal Enfield and Triumph. Among the 10 BMW riders will be former Honda F1 chief mechanic Alastair Gibson, who now lives in the UK and will be riding his father's machine.

One of the favourites for victory will be Velocette rider Kevin Robertson, who has won five DJ Rallies - including 2010 and 2012 - since they were introduced in 1970 to commemorate the original DJ Race, while Martin Davis is a three-time winner on his 1936 Sunbeam Model 9 and will also be as strong contender for a podium finish.


The original road race was run in 1913 and 1914, and from 1919 to 1936, when the authorities stepped in, saying it was too dangerous. It's interesting to note that to note that although there were numerous injuries, there was only one fatality in those 20 races, despite them being run on public roads - many of them gravel!

The race was run 'downhill' until 1921; that's why the centenary rally is being run from Johannesburg to Durban. The remainder of the original races were run from Durban to Johannesburg and the name stuck even after the race had become the stuff of legend.

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