The Motor Cycle July 6th 1922

Durban to Johannesburg. South Africa’s Biggest Motor Cycle Event.

Four Hundred Miles of Veldt and Mountain. Two Day Race won by a British Machine.

The most important and strenuous event in the South African motor cycle community is the annual race between the coast at Durban and the gold city, a distance of 396½ miles.

Except for the last 30 miles the whole distance is over typical Colonial, roads with surfacing from vile to execrable, several small rivers and streams ‘have to be driven through or waded .through, and many long and steep hills are included. Other than about three miles when passing through towns, the first 240 miles is continuously up and down, .culminating in the ascent of Laings Nek at the side of the famous Majuba Mountain.

Starting on the outskirts of Durban, the road goes through Maritzburg (51 miles), Estcourt (111 miles), Ladysmith (150 miles), to Newcastle (212 miles), where the first night is spent, all machines being locked up in official control. The second day is via Charlestown (244 miles), Volksrust (248 miles), Standerton (300 miles), Balfour (350 miles), Heidelberg (366 miles) to the finishing point 4½ miles from Johannesburg Town Hall.


First organised by the Rand M.C.C. in 1913, there were that year 66 entrants, of whom 20 finished; the same number survived the course out of 92 entries in 1914. The Great War suspended activity until 1919 when but 13 finished, and the ratio of successes to entrants was- worse in 1920, when eight men only qualified for prizes. The last two sets of figures indicate better than columns of description the tremendous difficulties of the course and the great physical strain on the drivers. In 1921 the number of finishers rose to 19.

British riders, will perhaps be able to obtain a better idea of road conditions in .South Africa by a knowledge of the average speeds each year, start to finish, i.e., total elapsed riding, time.

1913 (554 c.c. Bradbury), 27.22 m.p.h.
1914 (499 c.c. Rudge), 34.95 m.p.h.
1919 (350 c.c. Douglas), 31.10 m.p.h.
1920 (494 c.c. Douglas) 17.04 m.p.h.
1921 (989 c.c. Harley-Davidson), 35.87 m.p.h.

It will thus be seen that with nearly double the cubic capacity in 1921, but one more mile per hour average was obtained against the average of the winner in 1914

Handicapping on Capacity

The event has always been run on handicap terms arranged on a basis of engine capacity, and known performances of entrants. Such a system is not satisfactory, and some day it might be possible to divide the race into classes, each class starting level, but as there exists a perpetual floating trophy (which cost £125) for the annual winner, the better system is not yet favoured.

Organised Assistance

The conditions under which the race is run have varied. In 1913 and 1914 riders were prohibited from receiving assistance of any kind, and had to carry all spares and replacements with them. In 1919, 1920, and 1921, outside assistance was allowed and drivers could obtain spares anywhere. This year new parts, tyres, etc., were still procurable from anywhere, but outside assistance was prohibited, and all repairs had to be effected on the road. It is obvious that those trade firms with the longest pockets and best resources are able to secure advantages for, riders of .their machines that are not available to the small firms.

In addition to gold medals to the first five men, cash prizes are given, the winner taking £100, 2nd man £50, 3rd man £25, 4th man £15, 5th man £10, 6th man £5, 7th man £2 10s., and first unplaced novice £5. Further, all finishing inside two hours after the winner receive gold medals.

Enormous Organisations Involved

The organisation is a huge task involving some four months prior work; first to obtain official sanction – road racing is prohibited unless so sanctioned – and thereafter to fix up petrol stations, controls and a small army of honorary officials. Drivers have a clear run through on the first day and part of the second day; when passing from Natal across the border into Transvaal, road gates are encountered to the number of 52, all of which should be opened and closed individually by each driver in strict compliance with the law. But to avoid this fearsome handicap each gate is guarded separately, and the guards, of course, have to be paid; three fast cars continuously patrol this section to make certain that all gates are kept open with guards ready’ to close them against straying cattle and sheep.

Police render assistance from end to end of the 396 miles in respect of the few towns and villages passed through by keeping a clear course. So great is public interest that it is quite usual for parties’ to drive distances of 50 miles just to witness the occasional passage of a competitor. A public holiday being always selected for the last day, sporting Johannesburg turns out by the mass to be at the finishing line, or as near as is permitted some 10,000 spectators were strung along the road this year for the last three miles.

The 1922 Event

For 1922 the entries totalled exactly 50, made up of 40 from Johannesburg, 9 from Natal, and 1 from so far afield as Port Elizabeth, 800 miles away.

They may conveniently be summarised as follows:

One 225 c.c. Velocette,
One 225 c.c. Triumph,
One 269 c.c. Sun,
One 348 c.c. Hilda (local assembly),
Three 349 c.c. A.J.S.
Three 348 c.c. Douglas,
One 490 c.c. Norton,
One 495 c.c. Hilda,
One 498 c.c. P. and M.,
One 499 c.c. Brough,
One 499 c.c. Rudge,
One 499 c.c. Dunelt,
One 532 c.c. Scott,
One 554 c.c. Bradbury,
One 550 c.c. Sunbeam,
Two 492 c.c. Sunbeam,
Three 496 c.c. Douglas,
One 770 c.c. B.S.A.,
Three 557 c:c. B.S.A.
Three 499 c.c. Triumph,
Three 550 c.c. Triumph,
One 596 c.c. Indian,
Six 998 c.c. Indian,
Two 998 c.c. Excelsior,
Eight 989 c.c. Harley-Davidson.

Handicap limit was 5h. 20m. for the Velocette down to five men on scratch

Early Start on First Day

In dull weather the limit man went off promptly at 7 a.m. on May 30th, the remainder following at five minutes intervals in. pairs, quite irrespective of handicaps, to enable the scratch men to reach Newcastle well before afternoon; the correct adjustments were made next morning, so that the first man to finish would be the winner. The 54 miles to Maritzburg is possibly the most trying of the whole distance, well over 3,000 feet above sea level being climbed in 42 miles, dropping the next 12 miles to about 2,000 feet with numerous short steep .hills abounding in acute turns.

Out of 44 starters 42 were timed into Maritzburg between 8.45 a.m. and 3.23 p.m., Percy Flook (348 Douglas) reaching there in the van. Fastest net times were:

Young (499 Triumph), 1h. 5m.;
Long (998 Excelsior), 1h. 6m.;
Thomas (492 Sunbeam), 1h. 9m.;
P. Flook (348 Douglas), 1h. 11m.;
Berry (550 Triumph), 1h. 11.;
Cohen (550 Triumph), 1h. 12m.;
De Kok (998 Excelsior), 1h. 12m., for 54 miles.

Racing Across Country

Immediately outside Maritzburg is a five miles hill, most of the gradient 1 in 7 and 1 in 8, and the hitherto fair surface deteriorates, becoming very bad to Estcourt (111 miles). Best net times:

Long, 2h. 32m.;
Young 2h. 33m.;
Hodgkiuson (557 B.S.A.), 2h. 38m.;
Cohen, 2h. 44m,;
De Kok, 2h. 45m.;
Berry, 2h. 47s.;
Wilson, (998 Indian), 2h. 47m.;
Moulder, (492 Sunbeam), 2h. 49m.;
Thomas, 2h. 49m.

On this section Loader ‘(989 .Harley) was run into by a passing car, fortunately without much damage to man or machine, and he was able to continue. Young had to stop and take out his back wheel, partly buckled by hitting big stones. Flook in his usual sporting spirit came to a dead stop when about to pass Young to see if he was hurt.

At Ladysmith (150 miles) the timekeepers booked through 37 men with best net times as follows:

Borland, (989 Harley), 3h. 33m.;
Young, 3h. 36m.;
Long, 3h. 40m. ;
Hodgkinson, 4h. 1m.;
Moulder, 4h. 4m.;
Murray (989 Harley), 4h. 4m.;
Wilson, 4h. 6m.;
P. Flook, 4h. 8m.;
Thomas, 4h. 9m.

Boulders, Streams and Sand.

Ten miles outside Ladysmith came the worst stretch on the course up over the Biggarsberg range of hills – an outlying spur of the Drakensberg mountains – with several harrow streams to wade through all paved with rough boulders; at the summit was a long run down to Newcastle with at least 20 miles of continuous deep sand to negotiate. There were many mishaps hereabout, A. V. Baker (499 Triumph) skidding in the sand at high speed and badly hurting his shoulder, but he managed to ride in and then retired.

No fewer than 35 survived to Newcastle (212 miles), the eight best net times, being:

Long (998 Excelsior), 5h. 28m.;
Ressel (770 B.S.A. twin), 5h. 32m.;
Young (499 Triumph), 5h. 50m.;
Moulder (492 Sunbeam), 5h. 55m.;
Murray (989 Harley), 5h. 59m.;
Thomas (492 Sunbeam), 6h. 9m.;
Van Bergen (490 Norton), 6h. 11m.;
H. Scott (349 A.J.S.), 6h. 12m.

All arrivals had some trouble, such as Long (broken saddle), Scott (broken handle-bar), Percy FIook (back wheel cones jammed), Zurcher (Douglas, chain snapped), Hildebrandt (burst tyre causing complete somersault), Loader (collision), etc.

Handicaps Operated on Second .Day.

All arrivals the preceding afternoon re-started, but not one went off at the exact minute, every man spending time in adjustments or repairs after machines were released from the lock-up. H. Scott was timed off at 7.0 a.m., and the remainder according to the adjusted handicaps mentioned in earlier paragraphs. Long, one of the scratch men, had picked up so much on Scott that it seemed a foregone conclusion that, barring accidents, he must win. With 184 miles to cover Long had to reduce Scott by only 1h. 41m. Young, the much fancied man on the first day, had a start of Long by but 38m. Moreover, the riders were now within easy distance of much better roads so far as concerned the big powered mounts.

For the first 30 miles out of Newcastle the route was amongst winding hills, criss-cross up and down with a final terror at Laings Nek, always inches carpeted in loose stones for the mile steep pitch that finishes the seven mile climb .from Ingogo village, bringing the competitors to 5,500 feet above sea level, remaining approximately that height to the end across what is known as “high veld.” Open rolling country much like the Wiltshire Downs in England is the characteristic feature; there is not a single steep hill, and. Although mostly of rough surface, the .long straight stretches provide plenty of opportunity to those who thoroughly know the course

Scott wasted little time. At Standerton, 96½ miles from the finish, the leaders and times of passing were:

Scott, 9.39;
Young, 10.10;
Moulder, 10.15;
Booth (Triumph Junior), 10.31
D. Scott (A.J.S.}, 10.24;
Cohen, 10.53;
Dessels, 10.55;
P. Flook, 10.56;
Long, 10.57;

H. Scott was thus leading Young by 31 minutes and the huge crowd at the half-mile level stretch at the finish were kept on the strain of interest by telephone messages giving the times at intervening points.

A Popular Win.

At Balfour, 41, miles to go, H. Scott held the lead by less than two minutes and five miles further Young at last wrested the front position from Scott, and, riding his 499 c.c. Triumph all out along the last 27 miles of really good road, he was a popular winner, beating the race record created last year by the late Robert Blackburn. H. Scott (349 A.J.S.) followed 13 minutes later, so it will be realised that Young achieved a magnificent performance. Long (998 Excelsior) arrived at 1.3 p.m., 48 minutes after Young; when the full times were worked out it was seen that Long was the fastest in the race, and created a still .better record, viz. 9h. 46m. 23s. compared with Young’s 10h. 1m. 32s

In 1919, when the race was run in two days from Johannesburg to Durban, Young ran second, to the winner (Percy Flook). He-has only once previously, been placed first in important events in South Africa, nearly always coming to grief with broken handle bars, as was the case in 1919. He lives at Durban, and is a prominent member of the Natal M.G.C. H. Scott hails from Johannesburg; he gained fourth place ,in the 1919 race. A. Long is connected with the trade in Johannesburg, and it may be recalled that in 1920 and 1921, .when a scratch sidecar race was run in conjunction with the “Schlesinger” trophy solo handicap events, he won on each occasion on an Excelsior, in 1920 by a bare five seconds, and in 1921 by twelve minutes, net time 11h. 26m.

The team prize for first three machines of one make goes to the Triumph, viz., Young 1, Cohen 5, Booth 15, total 21 points. In addition nine men finished inside the time limit of five hours after the winner. A protest has been raised against the second man, H. Scott, for taking his machine into a garage; the above placings after Young, therefore are subject to the result of investigation.

In the past races C. H. Young has been dogged by a series of handle-bar breakings : this year he took the precaution of reinforcing the bars as indicated in this picture of successful rider and mount (right) along with J. R. Berry, another of the Triumph team.

C. H. Young (499 c.c. Triumph), winner of the Trophy in the 1922 Durban-Johannesburg race at an average speed of 39½ m.p.h. for nearly 400 miles of rough riding.

Charlie Young (left), Len Cohen and Jack Booth of the winning Triumph team.

The report below is copied verbatim from a small publication by Ken Macleod entitled Through the Dust Barrier, Part One, 1903-1923 – The history of S.A. Motorcycle Sport. (Part Two, the final issue, covered the years 1924-1927)

The sidecar section of the Deejay was dropped the following (1922) year. Tragedy struck before the race when Blackburn was killed on April 23 while returning from a horse race meeting at Scottsville in Pietermaritzburg when his sidecar outfit overturned near Durban.

The race started on May 30 and the large entry was hampered by the crowd which got too close to the track in spite of being controlled by N.M.C.C. officials and mounted policemen.

W. J. Blyth (350cc Velocette) led the field away and Carstens provided excitement when he skidded close to the crowd, his overalls caught and he landed on the back wheel, remounting smartly and continuing without losing control!

Hildebrand crashed and retired, Bunny Loader collided with a car and lost considerable time repairing his bike and Ian Scott lost 20 minutes with a puncture.

Doug Scott led Flook and Dave Brink at Pietermaritzburg while Borland broke the record in 1 hour 3 minutes. Flook led Scott by 2 minutes at Estcourt but the latter regained the lead at Ladysmith with Flook on his tail. But it was Moulder who led at Newcastle with Ian Scott second and Long third in a record 5 hour 20 minutes. Doug Scott was 11th and Flook 16th.

China Scott took the lead soon after the resumption but broke his handlebars at Ingogo and limped into Volksrust where he repaired it with an iron belt. His petrol tank started to leak at Greylingstad but he solved this with the aid of a towel.

At Balfour Young was 4 minutes behind Scott and he passed him just after Heidelberg to finish just as the heavens opened. He had broken the race record by 11 minutes while Long broke the distance record by 25 minutes.

Scott’s second place was only confirmed some time later when a full report had been received from the Volksrust control as the fact that he had gone into a garage was contrary to the regulations.

Charlie Young (left), Len Cohen and Jack Booth of the winning Triumph team


1. C. H. Young (Natal, 500cc Triumph) 10 hours 1 minute average speed 41,93 m/h;
2. I. H. R. Scott (Rand, 350cc A.J.S.),
3. A. Long (Rand, 1000cc Excelsior) 9 hours 46 minutes average speed 43,03 m/h