Mike Ward, riding a 1936 Velocette 500, scored his second win in the iTOO-sponsored Durban-Johannesburg (DJ) rally for classic motorcycles, which started in Durban on 10 March and finished the next day in Benoni. He was not only presented with the magnificent, silver Schlesinger Vase floating trophy but, for the first time in many years he received a miniature of the trophy as a valuable keepsake.
This was the 51st running of this famous regularity trial which commemorates the annual race between the two cities which was held from 1913 to 1936 before the authorities withdrew permission due to safety concerns. It is for this reason that participating motorcycles must have been made prior to 1937.
Ward had a winning score of only 663 seconds error at the various timed control points on the 700 km route which was similar to that used in the road races. There was a total of 76 controls – 38 each day – so these low scores are amazing. Ward, who is always a strong contender for victory on these regularity trials, scored his first DJ Rally win as far back as 2004. He had the lowest score on Day 1 this year and was fourth on Day 2. This was Ward’s 24th DJ and the 15th time he had ridden his Velocette on this famous event.
Martin Kaiser, at 31 the youngest rider on this year’s rally, took second place overall with 672 seconds error and had the lowest score on Day 2. He rode a 1934 Sunbeam Model A 500. Third overall was five-times winner Gavin Walton (1936 AJS 500) with a score of 844, which was 20 seconds better than his brother, Kevin, who placed fourth on a 1931 BSA S31 Sloper 500.
There were 67 starters out of an original entry of 90 riders and 57 qualified as finishers. Weather varied from overcast, misty and damp to very hot. There were, unfortunately, two riders who crashed and had to be taken to hospital for treatment.
Other previous winners who completed the route were Kevin Robertson, a seven-time winner, who placed eighth and three-time winner Martin Davis who took 13th place.
Eighty-seven-year-old Neville Smith was the oldest rider to complete the 2023 DJ, finishing 55th on his 1935 Rudge Rapid Touring 250, carrying the number 35 that refers to 1935, which is the year Neville was born and the year his Rudge was made! The oldest motorcycle to be classified as a finisher was a 1920 ABC, ridden by Peter Gillespie, which took 18th place.
Gavin Walton, who rode his trusty AJS for the 17th time on a DJ Rally, said it was a tough event for both motorcycles and riders this year due to deteriorating road surfaces very few competitors had the benefit of rear suspension on their old motorcycles.
1, Mike Ward (1936 Velocette 500) 663 seconds’ error
2, Martin Kaiser (1934 Sunbeam Model 9A 500) 672
3, Gavin Walton (1936 AJS 500) 844
4, Kevin Walton (1931 BSA S31 Sloper 500) 864
5, Ryan Duncan (1934 Norton Model 18 500) 932
6, Keith Kendall (1935 Velocette MAC 350) 1 187
7, Gawie Nienaber (1935 BMW 12 750) 1 450
8, Kevin Robertson (1936 Velocette MSS 500) 1 611
9, Dave Pitchford (1929 Sunbeam Model 9 500) 1 612
10, Neville Nicolau (1936 Norton Model 18 500) 1 626
Published by: Roger Houghton