Dougie van Riet, a motor racing legend and founder member of the NSRI (and for many years the harbour master at Gordon’s Bay), has died in Pinelands, Cape Town, at the age of 96.

Dougie van Riet, a motor racing legend and founder member of the NSRI (and for many years the harbour master at Gordon’s Bay), has died in Pinelands, Cape Town, at the age of 96.


His racing exploits were but one chapter in a remarkably full life, and he designed some of the NSRI's most successful rescue boats. He formed the Gordon's Bay Rescue Boat Station in 1969.


In 1934, Dougie rode an almost standard BSA 500 into second place in the South African TT, behind Joe Sarkis's racing Sunbeam. In the same year, he raced an Austin Brooklands in the first South African grand prix, at East London.


The following year, 1935, he set the speed record from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth and back - a record which still stands. His greatest victory came in 1937 with a convincing win in the Rand Grand Prix, held at the Earl Howe circuit, in his Austin Brooklands.

In 1939, he won the curtain raiser race to the SAGP in East London in the Austin Brooklands.


Born in Kalk Bay on the Cape Peninsula and educated at St Joseph's College, Dougie was a champion gymnast, swimmer and equestrian show jumper, while still at school.


In 1922 he bought his first motor cycle, a 250 cm3 BSA, and the following year he raced it. Success soon came in two-wheeled competitions astride BSAs, AJSs, Ariels and Indians. In 1929 he acquired a 1927 Austin 7 and modified it for its racing debut, whereafter he gradually switched to cars. His most celebrated victory came in the 1937 Rand Grand Prix.


The early '30s Dougie joined F Robb and company at the invitation of its managing director Eddie Small. When Robb Motors was formed he was one of the founder members, along with Small.

During World War Two he rose to the rank of major and was awarded the MBE. In 1948 he and Rowland Hill started Stickland Motors, which became a lucrative success and three years later, Dougie "retired" to Gordon's Bay, where he soon became chairman of the Village Management Board.


When the Gordon's Bay harbour master was tragically killed launching a boat some years later, Dougie became "temporary" harbour master - for a period of 21 years.


A keen and gifted amateur pilot, Dougie got his flying licence in 1933 and the same year the famous Cobhams Flying Circus invited him to take part in an aerial display at the controls of an Avro Avian at Wynberg airfield.


His racing:


Like most racers of his time, Dougie raced for the hell of it and competed in many fields, from motor cycles to speed record runs.


Around 1931 he stopped racing to organise The Argus Car Derby at the Rietvlei circuit that he and other members of the Cape Peninsula Motor Cycle and; Car Club (CPMCC) and Metropole Motor Cycle and Car Club (MMCC) had built in 1929. But he was soon competing again and only finally stopped in 1952.

    His career included the following...

  • 1923-34 - Well over a dozen major wins astride motor cycles of various types from BSA 250s to an Indian Police Model 750, in road races, beach races and trials. In 1934 he rode an almost standard BSA 500 into second place in the South African TT, behind Joe Sarkis's racing Sunbeam. His Grand Prix debut came in 1934 in the first SAGP at East London.
  • 1935 - Set the speed record from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth and back - a record which still stands.
  • 1937 - In the International Grosvenor Grand Prix at Pollsmoor (won by the German Auto Union team) he brought his little Austin Brooklands home in seventh place - the first South African car home.
  • 1937 - His greatest victory came with a convincing win in the Rand Grand Prix, held at the Earl Howe circuit, in his Austin Brooklands.
  • 1939 - Won the curtain raiser race to the SAGP in East London in the Austin Brooklands.

Dougie's memorial service will be held at the naval college in Gordon's Bay next Friday.

Original article from Car