This picture shows the start of the 1926 race – at the foot of Mayville Hill, Durban. The road was metalled but not tarred.

DJ RALLY from The Motor Cycle 1 July 1926

396-Mile South African Classic Handicap Won at 26.4 m.p.h. by J. R, Gibson (300 O.K.) with R. S. Long (347 Sunbeam) Second and A. Long (348 Indian) Third. Fastest Time by E. G. Murray (989 Harley-Davidson) in 9h. 18m. Fails to Beat Record.

The perfect organisation which has come to be recognised as inseparable from the Durban-Johannesburg annual road race was again in evidence this year throughout the 396½ mile route. Some idea of what this means can be gleaned from a few figures. During the two days’ racing, after preliminaries occupying five months, some 200 responsible officials – all honorary – are at work, additional to 120 Boy Scouts for flag signalling; an unknown number of hospitable ladies who annually provide free refreshments “at many places for the competitors; special staffs of telegraph and telephone operators on the Bank Holiday; a considerable number of “safety” police (at least 100) through the towns and at the finish; individual guards at each of the 62 gates in the Transvaal, etc.

As the most important road race in South Africa, from the standpoint of the general public, the Durban-Johannesburg handicap attracts .more and more spectators each succeeding year, who think nothing of travelling 100 miles, and make the affair a jolly day’s outing for family parties. In 1925 some 10,000 people congregated at and near the finish; this year, responsible police authorities estimated the number at over 25,000 from the finishing posts for a distance of five miles.

The event having the sanction of the road authorities in Natal and Transvaal, and being approved by the police, the latter rendered material assistance everywhere, particularly at the Johannesburg end, where two uniformed men on solo machines piloted each competitor over the final mile, as the throng of motor traffic was so dense that accidents were feared. It was possible only to bar all traffic off the road for the last half-mile; hereabouts were hefty ropes around strong poles (temporarily let into the ground) 100 feet back from the course to restrain the enthusiasts from danger to themselves and the drivers, a number of mounted constables continually parading from end to end.

Out of the original entry of 68, there were 53 starters on handicap terms. The very important rule regarding spares and outside assistance, embodied in 1913 and 1914 and since dropped, was again made compulsory. This stipulated that spares could be used only from those carried on the machine or by the driver, had to be declared at Durban, handed to officials on the rider’s arrival at Newcastle, and given to the respective drivers on their leaving Newcastle on the morning of the second day.

Outside assistance of any kind was absolutely prohibited, except for replenishment of fuel and oil at the specified controls. This rule prevented the absurdity, as in previous years, of new forks, complete new wheels, controls, foot-rests, handle-bars, tyres, .etc., being fitted by half a dozen willing helpers, immediately after the second morning start. The results of this regulation were witnessed at the finish in’ Johannesburg this year, and it was instructive to see the snaky wheels, together with the multiplicity of loose parts on the majority of the 27 finishing machines-practically half the number which started.

The start at Durban. A. Long (No. 28) who finished third on a 348 c.c. Indian, was awarded the prize for the most meritorious performance.

The following men started from Durban

(Times indicate handicap):

A. Stuart (172 Francis-Barnett), 3h. 40m.
B. Klassen (225 Enfield), 3h. 30m.
E. Bell (174 o.h.v. Cotton), 3h.
E. Jacobie (173 o.h.v. Rex-Acme), 3h.
G. Taylor (249 B.S.A.), 2h. 22m.
J. Gibson (300 O.K.), 2h. 10m.
R. Suverkrop (246 o.h.v. Royal Enfield), 1h. 52m.
W. Hartz (349 Indian), 1h. 48m.
H. Rorich (347 Sunbeam), 1h. 48m.
W. Bacon (348 Douglas), 1h. 48m.
W. Allison (250 o.h.v. Allison), 1h. 42m.
J. Badenhorst (348 Raleigh), 1h. 38m.
S. Flook (348 Douglas), 1h. 38m.
R. Long (347 Sunbeam), 1h. 38m.
E. Fouche (348 Douglas), 1h. 38m.
T. Nicholl (348 Indian), 1h. 28m.
A. Felgate (344 o.h.v. Royal Enfield), 1h. 22m.
C. Turner (348 o.h.v. Raleigh), 1h. 22m.
A. Consani (349 o.h.v. Cotton), 1h. 22m.
A. Perkins (348 o.h.v. Chater-Lea), 1h. 22m.
C. Bower (348 Douglas), 1h. 18m.
A. Long (348 Indian), 1h 18m.
F. Zurcher (348 Douglas), 1h. 18m.
W. White (490 Norton), 1h. 16m.
W. Blythe (348 o.h.v. Raleigh), 1h. 7m.
P. Christie (349 o.h.v. B.S.A.), 1h. 7m.
P. Feinstein (345 o.h.v. Harley-Davidson), 1h. 7m.
E. Gibson (348 o.h.v. Rex-Acme), 1h. 7m.
W. Manson (348 o.h.v. O.K.) 1h. 7m.
T. Owen (348 o.h.v. O.K.), 1h 7m
J. Riddell (348 o.h.v. Chater-Lea) 1h. 7m.
C. Rudd (348 o.h.v. Velocette), 1h. 7m.
A. Strachan (348 o.h.v. A.J.S.), 1h. 7m.
G. Sutton (490 Norton), 1h. 1m.
W. Griebenow (492 Sunbeam), 1h. 1m.
A. Bernardi (348 o.h.v. Raleigh), 52m.
C. Duplooy (348 o.h.v. Calthorpe), 52m.
C. Gillibrand (348 o.h.v. Cotton), 52m.
W. Harris (344 o.h.v. Royal Enfield), 52m.
T. Kenyon (344 o.h.v. Royal Enfield), 52m.
C. Scott (348 o.h.v. A.J.S.), 52m.
D. Scott (348 o.h.v. Rex-Acme), 52m.
F. Blazeby (490 o.h.v. Norton), 45m.
L. Cohen (348 o.h.v. A.J.S.), 42m.
J. Sarkis (348 o.h.v. Raleigh), 42m.
B. E. Scott (348 o.h v. Chater-Lea), 42m.
I. H. Scott (348 o.h.v. A.J.S.), 42m.
R. Wolfe (989 Harley-Davidson), 41m.
D. Brink (596 o.h.v, Douglas). 35m.
H. Hill (490 o.h.v. Norton), 30m.
B. Adams (49P o.h.v. Rudge), 30m.
P. Flook (490 o.h.v. Norton), 20m.
E. Murray (989 Harley-Davidson), 2m.

Riders of British machines: (Left) The winner, J. R. Gibson (306 O.K.); (right) R. S. Long, placed second on a Sunbeam; (centre) A. M. Stuart, who finished 11th on a 172 c.c. Francis-Barnett, the smallest machine entered.

A. Long (348 Indian) finishing third in 9h. 43m. net time; his terribly swollen knee can be seen in the photograph.

At 6.30 a.m. the first man started under ideal weather conditions, the rising sun clearing off the mists on the surrounding hills general at this time of year. Road surfaces were bone dry, in fact too dry for speed work, more particularly over the 25 miles north of Maritzburg. Within the first mile W. Allison of Lady smith, who rode a machine of his own building, crashed into a post on a bend; remounting, he again crashed three miles further on, and retired.

H. Hill (490 Norton) of Bulawayo, crashed at 40 miles, falling so heavily that his crash helmet was split; he was taken to Maritzburg hospital on a passing car, but later in the day he was released and went to Newcastle by train. (On Monday, Hill, out of the competition, against the repeated requests of his friends, determined to ride quietly to Johannesburg. His previous fall must undoubtedly have been more serious than was diagnosed at Maritzburg; 60 miles from Johannesburg he was seen to round an approach to a bridge much too fast, skidded in loose gravel, came off, somersaulted three times and lay unconscious. He died soon afterwards).

C. W. Bower crashed in this section, badly damaging the front forks and footrests of- his Douglas. White (Norton) hit a boulder, putting his rear wheel out of truth; J. Gibson (O.K.) also came off, damaging one foot-rest only; he quickly restarted. White had a second fall, cannoning into a flock of sheep, fortunately without serious injury to himself or his machine. Most of the early starters reported narrow escapes from the same trouble, many flocks, of sheep being met.

50 Miles in 61 Minutes.

Fastest time for the first 50 miles (to Maritzburg) was made by L. Cohen (A.J.S.) in 1h. 1m. In comparing this with Isle of Man performances it must be remembered that the Durban-Maritzburg section has hardly a single level yard, much being severely hilly with innumerable bends and acute corners. So far, six men had retired.

The Maritzburg-Newcastle section of 161 miles included 47 of vileness. The steep Town Hill, out of Maritzburg, is being purposely allowed to get into a disused state, a “loop” being in course of construction. Beyond, much of the -surface was washed out by heavy storms during the recent rainy season and the following dry weather made it inches deep in sand, large stones and storm debris.

Some 65 miles from the start P. Flook (490 Norton), in swerving to avoid hitting a. native who suddenly rushed across the road, had to drive into a high bank, injuring the machine too much to continue. Bower (Douglas) had a second fall hereabouts, slightly damaging the forks and one wheel. Farther along T. Owen (O.K.) crashed, straining both legs and damaging his machine beyond temporary repair. Bower, trying to make up time already lost by his two falls, noticed Owen lying stretched out and seemingly badly hurt; he stopped and brought him round and after some minutes managed to get him up on to the tank of the Douglas and so carried him for over 40 miles into Ladysmith ; whatever chance Bower might have had in the race he unselfishly sacrificed to help his injured fellow competitor.

A. Long (Indian) had an uncanny mishap, a large stone jamming between the rear wheel and forks when he was travelling at nearly 60 m.p.h.; he came over with a fearful bump on his right side, the machine falling upon him. Bent handle-bars and footrest and a partially detached carburetter resulted. In spite, of being in great pain he pluckily got going again.

Bacon (Douglas) crashed, dislocated his shoulder, and had to retire. Stuart (Francis-Barnett), who had retained the lead for 180 miles, was another sufferer from a fall and whilst remounting was passed by J. R. Gibson (O.K.). Stuart had also been delayed by two punctures. B. E. Scott (Chater-Lea), when swerving to avoid a pot-hole, hit a rock at the very edge of the road, putting the front wheel so much out of truth that, as he remarked at the end of the race, “I was continually writing the initial of my name.”

First-day Finishers.

The tale of mishaps to men and machines is best told by the following list of men who reached Newcastle, the end of the first day’s course of 211 miles:

1. J. R, Gibson (300 O.K.)
2. A. F. Stuart (172 Francis-Barnett)
3. R. S. Long (347 Sunbeam)
4. A. Long (348 Indian)
5. C. E, Turner (348 Raleigh)
6. B. J. Klassen (225 Royal Enfield)
7. G. Taylor (249 B.S.A.)
8. T. Nicholl (348 Indian)
9. J. Badenhorst (348 Douglas)
10. L. R, Cohen (348 A.J.S.)
11. F. Zurcher (348 Douglas)
12. E. P. Fouche (348 Douglas)
13. C. W. Bower (348 Douglas)
14. P. Christie (349 B.S.A.)
15. W. R. Harris (344 Royal Enfield)
16. C. W. Scott (348 A.J.S.)
17. E. H. Gibson (348 Rex-Acme)

18. R. M. Suverkrop (344 Royal Enfield)
19. B. Adams (499 Rudge)
20. W. Griebenow (492 Sunbeam)
21. D. A. Scott (348 Rex-Acme)
22. W. J. Blythe (348 Raleigh)
23. W. H. White (490 Norton)
24. E. G. Murray (989 Harley-Davidson)
25. B. E. Scott (348 Chater-Lea)
25. T. Kenyon (344 Royal Enfield)
27. H. Rorich (347 Sunbeam)
28. A. Perkins (348 Chater-Lea)
29. A. Strachan (348 A.J.S.)
30. A. Bernardi (348 Raleigh)
31. E. C. Jacobie (173 Rex-Acme)
32. F. Blazeby (490 Norton)
33. G. W. Sutton (490 Norton)
34. J. M. Riddell (348 Chater-Lea)

A Blackburne-engined machine, built by W. Allison, who crashed twice early in the race and retired.

Fastest times of the day were those of L. R. Cohen (348 A.J.S.) 4h. 58m., E. G. Murray (989 Harley-Davidson) 5h. 11m.; B. Adams (499 Rudge) 5h. 14m. Cohen, who created a new record for the first section, was the sole no-trouble man, the other 33 stopping for punctures, engine or machine mishaps, falls, etc. B. Adams’ time is remarkable in that, except perhaps for Zurcher and P. Flook, he was the oldest man in the race and (another coincidence) he and Flook competed in the 1914 race, which Adams won.

At least a dozen men (including Adams) complained of constant misfiring after leaving Maritzburg, and they all attributed the trouble to petrol taken in at that control. Nineteen men retired.

The intervening Sunday was quietly spent at Newcastle. A. Long’s right thigh was so badly swollen that it was considered impossible for him to ride next day. As the machines could not be touched (they were locked up under a police guard in the control) the men took turns at massaging the injured man’s leg.

With a shorter distance (185½ miles) to cover, the first man was despatched on the Monday at 7 a.m., the departures being in the order of arrival. Gibson had the useful lead of 16 minutes on Stuart, R. S. Long leaving 2m. later, A. Long 20m. after Gibson, Turner 26m., Klassen 30 -Ti., Taylor 30m., Nicholl 34m., Badenhorst 36m., and Cohen 39m. As Gibson received from Cohen, at Durban, 88 minutes start, and Cohen had pegged back 49 minutes of the total, it looked any odds on Cohen at long last achieving what would have been a most popular win, as his name has been among the competitors annually since 1919.

Another glorious summer day, with a slight head wind to keep the men fresh, made matters pleasant for everybody, and with only 33 miles of hilly roads to cover before reaching the more level and faster surfaces in the Transvaal, it was expected that Cohen might possibly beat Du Toit’s record of 8h. 46m. 57s. made in the 1925 race.

At Standerton (88 miles) the arrival order was:

1. R, Gibson 9.15 a.m.
2. R. S. Long 9.32 a.m.
3. A, Long 9.33 a.m.
4. L. Cohen 9.46 a.m.
5. A. Badenhorst 9.50 a.m.
6. G. Taylor 9.59 a.m.

Cohen had therefore gained 8 minutes on Gibson in the distance, 5 minutes on A. Long and 7 minutes on R. S. Long, so that with still another 97 miles to transverse, all that was necessary was for Cohen to maintain just the same even pace.

Alf Long’s bad leg was a severe handicap to him ; moreover, the induction stub had come loose and only hung by two or three threads; if the petrol pipe snapped from the undue vibration, his hopes would be ended.

At Greylingstad (129 miles) the positions of the four leading men were unaltered, although Cohen had moved up nearer. At Balfour, 138 miles, Gibson was still in front, with intervals of 7 minutes to H. S. Long, 10 minutes to A. Long, and 16 minutes to Cohen; the reason for Cohen slowing down was piston trouble, and one mile later the piston, broke in the A.J.S.

The race now resolved itself into a tussle between Gibson and R. S. Long, the latter favoured by knowledge of how far his opponent was ahead, passed on to him by the many volunteer timekeepers.

On reaching Heidelberg, with only 27 miles of fast road to cover, Gibson had actually gained 4£ minutes on R. S. Long and 3 minutes’ on A. Long; this it seemed a dead certainty now for Gibson, barring mishaps. Only 10 miles from home he was pulled up to a dead stop with a choked jet, which took several valuable minutes to locate and put right; he just managed to run- in with but three minutes in hand. This was his first appearance in a long distance event, he being a “D” class man, viz., a novice.

A. Long’s pluck and tenacity in riding on the second day whilst suffering intense pain and inconvenience from his badly swollen leg, not to mention a rear wheel partially buckled, a carburetter nearly adrift and bent footrests, aroused much enthusiasm from the crowds at the finish, and he was deservedly awarded the special prize for the most meritorious performance.

J R Gibson on the 300 c.c. O.K. on which he finished first, taking 10h. 28m. net time for the 396½ miles.


(396½ MILES).

1. J. R. Gibson (300 O.K.) 10 28
2. R. S. Long (347 Sunbeam) 9 58
3. A. Long (348 Indian) 9 43
4. J. Badenhorst (348 Raleigh) 10 25
5. W. R. Harris (344 o.h.v. Royal Enfield) 9 49
6. D. Christie (349 o.h.v. B.S.A.) 10 1
7. C. W. Scott (348 o.h.v. A.J.S.) 9 51
8. G. Taylor (249 B.S.A.) 11 31
9. E, G. Murray (989 Harley-Davidson) 9 18
10. E. H. Gibson (348 o.h.v. Rex-Acme) 10 24
11. A. M. Stuart (172 Francis-Barnett) 13 4
12. E. P. Fouche (348 Douglas) 11 3
13. R. M. Suverkrop (246 o.h.v. Royal Enfield) 11 24
14. F. A. Zurcher (348 Douglas) 10 51
15. D. A Scott (348 o.h.v. Rex-Acme) 10 37
16. B. Klassen (225 Royal Enfield) 13 18
17. T. Nicholl (348 Indian) 11 25
18. C. W. Bower (348 Douglas) 11 17
19. T. Kenyon (344 o.h.v. Royal Enfield) 10 54
20. W. D. Griebenow (492 Sunbeam) 11 9
21. B. Adams (499 Rudge) 10.45
22. W. Blythe (348 o.h.v. Raleigh) 11 33
23. G. W. Sutton (490 Norton) 11 43
24. B. E. Scott (348 o.h.v. Chater-Lea) 11 26
25. F. Blazeby (490 o.h.v Norton) 11 42

Fastest time: E. G. Murray (989 Harley-Davidson), 9h. 18m.

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

A leading Italian rider, Angelo Bernardi (350cc Raleigh) was among the starters for the Deejay. A works Moto Galloni rider, Bernardi, who had arrived in the country shortly before, had been the youngest works rider in Italy at the age of 18 years, five years before.

Alf Long elected to ride the 350cc Indian Prince he had used in the South African Junior T.T. and Chick Harris chose the overhead valve 350cc Royal Enfield.

The field started from a deviation between the Main road and Bellair Road to avoid blocking traffic on the main road. A. Stuart on a 175cc Francis Barnett led the field away.

Hill, a Rhodesian rider, crashed heavily just beyond 45th Cutting and was taken away in a car but returned, apparently recovered, and continued the race to crash again a few miles further on and was admitted to Grey’s Hospital in the Natal capital. His bike was ridden to Ladysmith by another competitor who also retired.

Stuart still led at Pietermaritzburg with Len Cohen breaking the record in one hour and 30 seconds. Bower was delayed with a broken chain. Stuart had increased his lead to 30 minutes at Mooi River and Cohen was very fast but had to stop to repair a broken saddle. Flook crashed badly and badly bent his handlebars. Stuart opened up his lead to 40 minutes at Ladysmith in spite of crashing outside the town with Klaasen in second place. Flook collided with a Black man and crashed again. Bernardi was in 35th position.

Jack Gibson took over the lead from Stuart at Alcock Spruit to lead by 14 minutes at Newcastle with Roley Long, brother of Alf, in third place. Stuart had had two punctures and was struggling with a jumping chain. Alf Long fell heavily when a stone jammed his back wheel, badly injuring his knee. Bower bent his forks and footrests in two crashes, Harris wrecked his bike 17 miles outside the town and Bernardi retired at the overnight stop. But Cohen had picked up 40 places.

Several riders had fuel problems after refuelling in Pietermaritzburg, their bikes well down on power.

Hill left Grey’s hospital against doctors orders and carried on the journey but crashed and was killed instantly when he skidded on loose gravel at high speed while taking a bend onto Waterfall bridge near Greylingstad.

Gibson still led at Volksrust while Roley Long moved up into second place and Stuart dropped to ninth. Gibson led the younger Long by 17 minutes at Standerton but this had been reduced by four minutes at Greylingstad while Alf Long was in third place, one minute behind. Roley Long closed the gap to seven minutes at Balfour while Alf had dropped a further minute behind, and Cohen was only six minutes behind him.

Gibson increased his lead to 11 minutes at Heidelberg and the Longs could make no impression on the novice. Cohen retired with a broken piston.

But Gibson had jet and plug trouble just ten miles from the end of the race and beat the fast-closing Roley Long by 2 minutes 30 seconds. Christie and Harris, who had repaired his bike, staged a grandstand finish racing side by side to the finish but Harris won this dice by 0,2 seconds.


1. J. R. Gibson (250cc O.K. Supreme Jap) 10 hours 28 minutes, average speed 37,80 m/h
2. R. S. Long (350cc Sunbeam)
3. A. Long (350cc Indian Prince)