By Roger Houghton
Mark Broady (43), a mechanical engineer living in Randburg, surprised many experienced motorcycle rallyists when he won the 50th commemorative Durban-Johannesburg (DJ) regularity trial for classic motorcycles on 14 March. He accumulated an error of only 146 seconds at the time check points on the 596km route.
Mark, who had the second-best score on Day 1 (behind three-time winner Gavin Walton) and best score on Day 2, is a lifelong motorcyclist – both as a commuter and competitor in all forms of two-wheel motorsport. This was only his third DJ, having finished 40th in 2018 and 6th last year. The 1935 Velocette MAC he rode is the same motorcycle on which his father, Barry, had been running a close second in the inaugural commemorative DJ Rally in 1970 when a timing gear stripped and he had to retire about 20km from the finish at City Deep in Johannesburg. Barry Broady was also well known for winning the inaugural Roof of Africa in 1969 and following up with another win in 1970, both times riding a Honda. His son Mark is now restoring this Honda..
This annual DJ Run celebrates the 50th anniversary of the staging of the first of these rallies that commemorated the original, annual Durban-Johannesburg road race for motorcycles which took place between the two cities from 1913 until 1936, when the authorities banned this type of motorsport event due to safety concerns.
The 2020 run started from the Heidelberg Museum on Friday, 13 March and finished at the Shongweni Equestrian Centre the following day. It attracted an entry of 106 riders, with nine non-starters and 73 finishers – impressive considering the ‘youngest’ competing motorcycle was 84 years old and the oldest was the centenarian ABC Sopwith of Peter Gillespie.
Gillespie is a real fan of this little-known British motorcycle brand, which only produced motorcycles from 1914 to 1923. Gillespie’s 1920 machine, which he restored himself using many specially made parts, finished a creditable 52nd. However, his teammate, 80-year-old Paul Button of Britain, who is also an ABC owner and worldwide registrar of the marque, was forced to retire with a broken tappet adjuster. Button still managed to cover more than 400km on his loaned ABC and thoroughly enjoyed the DJ Run experience.
Second overall this year was Ralph Pitchford on a 1936 BSA Blue Star with an error of 173 seconds. Pitchford, an experienced off-road racer and Dakar competitor, is a preparer of immaculate motorcycles and won the DJ in 2016.
Third place was filled by Keegan Ward (32), who is another rider with fairly limited experience in regularity rallying on a motorcycle. His error was 188 seconds. Son of Mike Ward, a regular DJ Run participant and winner of the 2004 event, Keegan is a keen motorcyclist. He has competed in only four DJ rallies, with the last time being 2018 when he finished 15th. Keegan did much of the work restoring his 1936 Norton himself and says his rally navigating skills have benefitted not only from advice from his father but also from two other experienced rallyists, Stuart Cunninghame and Martin Davis.
This year’s event was certainly not easy for the big field, although the weather played along on Day 1 and most of Day 2. The exception was a heavy squall of rain and hail which passed over the route on Saturday afternoon and affected the performance of several competitors, including drowning the electrics of some of the motorcycles. The secondary roads that make up most of the route were also rutted and potholed, while many speed humps also put a heavy strain on riders and their machines. On the second day they were in the saddle for almost 11 hours!
The Binder family trio of Trevor and his famous road-racing sons, Brad and Darryn, all qualified as finishers. Darryn (23) fared best, placing 43rd on a 1928 BMW R52 and collecting the award for the youngest rider to finish the event. He had previously ridden the DJ on a 98cc Francis Barnett when he was 16 and not permitted to ride a larger-capacity motorcycle. He was forced to retire after a number of punctures on that occasion.
His brother Brad, former Moto3 World Champion and now a KTM rider in MotoGP, finished 54th on a 1935 Sunbeam. He had problems with a broken rear mudguard bracket which required lots of cable ties to secure it, and also had a bolt come loose in the clutch assembly. But he did manage to finish, as did his father Trevor, who came 44th on his 1925 Indian Scout.
Six of the seven riders from outside South Africa also qualified as finishers: the Youngman trio from the United Kingdom, Dorian Radue from Australia, Paul Button from the UK and Anthony Weber from Zambia, while Andy Kaindl of Germany was forced to withdraw at the end of Day 1.
Samantha Anderson, who rode a 1918 Harley-Davidson, which was the oldest motorcycle entered in the event, had to retire near the finish with a lack of spark for the 1000cc V-twin engine.
The results on the DJ Run are calculated on arrival times at various checkpoints on the route as the riders try to stick as closely as possible to the set speeds (riders are allowed to choose to run in one of three speed groups: 50, 60 or 70km/h). The arrival times at check points were logged electronically by an instrument carried by the rider and downloaded at the end of each day. The rider with the lowest time penalty was the winner.
The annual, international DJ Run is run under the auspices of the Vintage and Veteran Club of South Africa (VVC), and organised by a committee with members from several local classic motorcycle clubs under the leadership of Clerk of the Course Larina MacGregor for the third consecutive year.