Gavin Walton scored his fifth overall win on the DJ Rally for pre-1937 motorcycles on March 11-12. This year’s win follows victories in 2009, 2017, 2018, and 2019.
This was the 51st regularity trial for motorcycles that would have been eligible for the road race between Durban and Johannesburg, which was staged between 1913 and 1936. Riders are required to stick as closely as possible to average speeds set by the organisers and are penalised for early or late arrival at the control points, with the data being collected by the electronic loggers carried by each rider.
The 2022 edition of the DJ had attracted an entry of more than 100 riders. The 700 km course from the start in Hillcrest, outside Durban, on the Friday to the finish at the Benoni Northern Club the next day followed the general route of the original road race. The 2022 rally took its usual toll on the old machinery with only 58 of the 84 starters being classified as official finishers of the two-day event.
Walton, who says this year’s win was the toughest of his five, rode to victory on his trusty 1936 500cc AJS once again. He has only ridden one other motorcycle on the DJ and that was a 1929 500cc OHV Ariel loaned to him by Hew Hollard for this first DJ in 2005. Walton not only won overall, with 228 penalty points, but also had the lowest score on Day 1, from Durban to Newcastle, and the third lowest score on the second day, from the overnight stop to the finish in Benoni.
Walton, who retired from the synthetic diamond manufacturing industry in 2015, now concentrates on restoring classic motorcycles and running his business in Springs retailing replacement parts for British motorcycles.
Gavin Walton’s brother, Kevin, also kept the family flag flying high with a fine fourth overall on a 1931 500cc BSA. Kevin was also fourth on Day 1 and fifth on Day 2 as well as winning his class in his BSA’s age category.
Second overall was Mike Ward on a 1935 500cc Velocette, who had won the DJ in 2004 and is usually at the sharp end of an extremely competitive field. Martin Kaiser took third place on a 1935 500cc Sunbeam. Competition was tight with only 238 seconds separating Walton in first place from Neville Nicolau and Samantha Anderson who share ninth position.
The entry of South Africa’s two MotoGP riders, brothers Brad and Darryn Binder, attracted a great deal of public interest. This was the second successive year that they have competed in the DJ Rally, and they have completed the course on each occasion. This year Darryn finished 21st on a 1936 500cc Ariel, with Brad taking 45th spot on a 1935 500cc Sunbeam.
Their father, Trevor, a DJ Rally regular, had to retire during the first day due to a problem with the rear brake of his 1925 600cc Indian, Repairs were carried out in Newcastle, and he rode the second day with his sons, putting up an impressive performance, collecting only 357 penalty points on Day 2.
Unfortunately for the large crowd at the finish in Benoni the Moto GP duo made a fairly quick exit after reaching the final control as they did not want undue exposure to possible Covid-19 infection before flying out to their next race in Indonesia. They did manage to meet and greet some fans and signed memorabilia for them before leaving.
Wayne Harley, curator of the Franschhoek Motor Museum, was a very happy man at the finish in Benoni as he completed the demanding route riding the museum’s 1926 350cc AJS that was the winner of the 1936 Durban-Johannesburg handicap road race, ridden on that occasion by Cranley Jarman, of Nigel, This was the last year that these races were staged before the authorities deemed this type of racing dangerous for both the competitors and other road users as traffic between the two cities increased over the years. The last time this motorcycle took part in DJ Rally was in 2002 when restorer Hew Hollard rode it.
“The bike performed faultlessly, and it was a privilege to have had the opportunity to ride this piece of South African motorcycle history on yet another DJ Rally after a 20-year absence,” commented Wayne Harley.
“The 2022 DJ Rally proved a tough test of man and machine, as it has over the years,” commented Hylton Allison, the Clerk of the Course who headed up a committee with members from various clubs to organise this prestigious international event on behalf of the Vintage and Veteran Club of South Africa.
“One problem we have each year is the deteriorating condition of the roads, which are tough on these old bikes, while this year we also had to contend with a civic protest in Pietermaritzburg which required competitors to deviate from the planned route to avoid the blocked roads. Thankfully, there were no accidents.”
Overall: 1, Gavin Walton (1936 500cc AJS), 228 penalty points; 2, Mike Ward (1935 500cc Velocette), 258; 3, Martin Kaiser (1935 500cc Sunbeam), 271; 4, Kevin Walton (1931 500cc BSA), 277; 5, Ralph Pitchford (1934 500cc Norton), 324; 6, Ryan Duncan (1934 500cc Norton), 357; 7, Ryan van Heerden (1936 350cc Velocette), 436; 8, Allan Cunninghame (1936 500cc Velocette), 439; 9, Neville Nicolau (1935 500cc Norton) tied with Samantha Anderson (1929 350cc AJS), 466.
Day 1: 1, Gavin Walton, 132; 2, Martin Kaiser, 134; 3, Mike Ward, 151; 4, Kevin Walton, 170; 5, Ryan Duncan, 197.
Day 2: 1, Ryan van Heerden, 87; 2, Ralph Pitchford, 93; 3, Gavin Walton, 96; 4, Rikki Maizey (1935 500cc Velocette), 99; 5, Kevin Walton tied with Neville Nicolau 500(107).
Other awards: Best performance by a pre-1926 motorcycle: Bill Lance (1925 600cc Indian). Best performance by pre-1930 motorcycles: Up to 350cc: Samantha Anderson (350cc AJS); 350-500cc: Tony Lyons-Lewis (1928 500cc Norton); Over 501cc: Howard Marks (Ariel); Sidecar combination: Brian Lange (1928 1000cc AJS). Best performance by pre-1936 motorcycles: Up to 350cc: Ryan van Heerden (1936 350cc Velocette); 350-500cc: Kevin Walton (1931 500cc BSA); Over 501cc: Gawie Nienaber (1935 750cc BMW); Sidecar combination: Adrian Hollis (1936 600cc Sunbeam). Best performance by a lady rider: Samantha Anderson. Best performance by a first-time rider: Achim Bergmann (200 cc DKW). Best Ariel: Grant Vacy-Lyall (1931 500cc). Best Norton: Ralph Pitchford (1934 500cc); Best Velocette: Mike Ward (1935 500cc); Best Triumph: Kevin Kohler (1934 350cc; Best BMW: Gawie Nienaber (1935 750cc); Best Sunbeam: Martin Kaiser (1935 500cc). Oldest motorcycle to complete the course: Hans Coertse (1924 1000cc Harley Davidson). Oldest rider to complete the course. Rod Thomas (82 years old riding a 1928 350cc OK Supreme. Youngest rider to compete the course: Darryn Binder (24 years old riding a 1936 500cc Ariel). Club team: Vintage Motorcycle Club (Mike Ward, Ralph Pitchford, Ryan Duncan). Most DJs completed: Tony Lyons-Lewis (38 DJs and this year he rode a 1928 500cc Norton CS1).
Published by: Roger Houghton