The event started as a 675km race from Johannesburg to Durban in 1913, and was won by AW McKeag on a Bradbury in 14 hours 46 minutes at 45.77km/h.That was pretty good seeing that the roads were gravel, there were farm gates aplenty to be opened and closed, and a rider who experienced fewer than three punctures on the way was considered lucky.
The DJ switched direction from 1922 but continued to be run as a flat-out race until 1936 when the authorities intervened by banning it following the death of a fellow called Jock Leishman near Ladysmith.There was simply too much traffic and speeds were too high for it to be allowed to continue.
By then, the record had been cut to a shade over six hours by the late, great Roy Hesketh on an Excelsior Manxman. Here's an extract from the 1927 programme:
"The romance of half a hundred speed men pounding hot engines over the rugged 400 miles separating the coast from South Africa's greatest metropolis has gripped the imagination of sportsmen all the world over.
" The Durban-Johannesburg motorcycle race has come to rank as one of the Empire's classic events; local enthusiasts go mad over it, the race is 'plashed' in the South African press and the English periodicals wax enthusiastic. The race was born in 1913 when Captain HN Lloyd organised it and the winner is awarded the famous Schlesinger Vase, a silver trophy costing 125 pounds."
The DJ was revived in 1970 as a regularity trial run over two days with an overnight stay in Newcastle. Entries are limited to machines built up to 1936, when the event was last run as a race, but there's no age or gender barriers for riders.
Thursday's scrutineering from 10h00 to dusk at Oxford in Hillcrest is a good place to be for leisurely walk around the old machines and meet the adventurous folk who ride them.
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