28 Mar On yer bike
Photo credit: Gideon Nel
FMM curator Wayne Harley is a self-confessed motorcycle enthusiast and this month we describe one of his favourite old machines…
The 2018 Durban to Johannesburg Motorcycle Rally, the D-J Run, ended on March 11 and FMM curator Wayne Harley once again took part on the ex-Ian Brodie 1934 Triumph 350 3/1, which was sponsored by Marius Malherbe. “What an honour to be able to ride this great race, which must be one of the oldest competitive events still going in the world today,” says Wayne.
The D-J started in 1913 and ran as a competitive high-speed event until 1936, after which it was stopped due to the high traffic numbers and consequent dangers on a public road. It is hard to believe that those early riders raced on dirt roads through as many as 21 farm gates, bad weather, poor road conditions and still completed the run in a time that that you would battle to match in a modern sedan today. In that first year no less than 65 riders attempted this epic race from Johannesburg to Durban. It was only in 1922 that the race officially direction and has been run from Durban to Johannesburg every year since except in 2013 when it was again run from Johannesburg to Durban in celebration of its 100th year. The first race was won by AW McKeag on his Bradbury in a time of 12 hours 45 minutes 54 seconds. By comparison, in 1936 Cranley Jarman won the race on a 350 AJS in less than seven hours, officially completing the race 6 hours 15 minutes. The race was not run between 1936 and 1970 but thanks to Dick Osborne and a group of his friends, the run got going again back in 1970 and has taken place ever since except for 1974 due to SA fuel restrictions. Some of the great names associated with this fantastic race include Percy Flook, Charlie Young, Jack Booth, Bernard ‘Baby’ Scott, Roy Hesketh and Jarman.
This race must have been one of the great events in its day. Historic photos show thousands of people is lining streets and towns including Durban, Standerton and Ladysmith. To put the event into perspective, compared with other great motor races around the world, the Isle of Man TT motorcycle races started in 1907, which was only five years before the D-J started, the Italian Mille Miglia was first held in 1925, and the first Le Mans 24-hour was held in 1923.
Yes, the D-J is no longer a high speed event, rather a commemorative run, but even the original trophy, the Schlesinger Vase, is still used to this day. This year’s event, the 105th, was “Yet another great D-J with very few issues to talk about than me forgetting to turn on my GPS logger, and getting a little lost on Day 2 when otherwise all went really well,” said Wayne immediately after the event. “Marius prepared the Triumph perfectly and it hardly missed a beat. The fellowship on this legendary 700-km event is something else. Everyone is so helpful and competitive but in such a sporting way. I can’t say I’ve ever experienced an event that can come close, and the people in the background are just stars. Words cannot explain how I feel about being a small part of this great race.”
Wayne bettered his previous year’s 61st position on the Triumph by finishing 42nd.