The 12th Rand Daily Mail – Castrol DJ RALLY – March 26th and 27th 1982

Supplement to Automobilist Vol. 8 No. 1, 1982 by Colin Oakhill – VVC

D.J. The Big One

People have asked me what it feels like to have started the D-J. It is a great thrill to have one’s enthusiasm shared by so many.

The expressions on riders’ faces at the Final Control is the greatest thrill of all. Some riders cover themselves in glory; to those who do not fare so well I say “strong hearts, be better prepared next year”.

The D-J is fortunate in having The Rand Daily Mail and CASTROL whose sponsorship ensures that the event takes place, also the organisers from the R.M.C. and V.V.C. whose ability ensures that the event runs smoothly. DICK OSBORNE

Dick Osborne

An occasional D-J earns for itself a soubriquet like “the wet one;” if the 1982 event is especially remembered, it will surely be as “the hot one”. For the two days of the run the sun blazed from cloudless skies, and competitors in their heavy protective clothing must have found conditions almost as trying as they would have been if it had been wet – not that we heard anyone complaining, but the poor dumb bikes certainly let it be known that they were made for more temperate climates and there were seventeen retirements (from 141 starters) on Friday, with a further nine on Saturday, most of them almost certainly caused by the lack of cold air which vintage engines prefer.

If you’re adding up, that makes 26 retirements – but there were 29 nonfinishers because, to the very sincere regret of the organisers, three competitors who completed the course had to be disqualified because their tender vehicles were seen to be driven through the field – an action which has been threatened for twelve years and this year was implemented.

Len Basset of the Rand Daily Mail issuing competition numbers, with Joan Mooney, who looked after the accommodation, looking on.

Colin Oakhill the chief scrutineer checking a competitor’s machine.

Hennie van Niekerk at Documentation receiving his scrutiny forms from Joan Meldrum.

Competitors collecting their oil from the ever helpful Castrol team of Meg and Garth.

The Durban scene was very much the mixture as before with the impeccable organisation of the two Joans, Meldrum and Mooney, ensuring that everyone was documented and accommodated without drama at the Holiday Inn, and the local dealers did a roaring trade in bicycle lamps and reflectors sold to competitors who didn’t think that the rules about emergency lighting and legal roadworthiness requirements applied to them.

Friday’s start was at the unholy hour of 6 a.m., and Durban’s Lady Mayoress was keen enough to be there and to flag off the first dozen or so competitors; SABC television people were there too and the main news at 6 p.m. on the same day contained exceptionally good coverage of the start, a happening which no doubt pleased the riders and their friends and families but more importantly perhaps gave our long suffering sponsors some tangible return for their investments.

Driving on the route after the last competitor had left, we saw the usual succession of forlorn riders who had broken down on the seemingly endless drag up to Hillcrest – this surely is the toughest part of the whole D-J route, including Town Hill, because if an engine is not spot-on as to aspiration and lubrication, and if the weather’s hot to boot, it will certainly seize up somewhere on that 30km endurance course.

Lenore Meldrum seemed to have suffered that fate on her little Coventry Eagle almost before she’d left the city border, and her dad had to call it a day too after battling with his recalcitrant B.S.A. all the way to Estcourt.

This year’s event must have been a nightmare to the Clerk of the Course and his lieutenants because unforeseen roadworks were in full swing on various parts of the first day’s route, and in the Valley of a Thousand Hills some treacherous loose gravel deposited overnight on a blind bend caused A. Duncan from Johannesburg to lose his 1929 Douglas in a big way. He broke his collar bone and was kept in the local hospital overnight, but was able to make it to the prize-giving party on Sunday; tough birds, these bikers.

For the first time in the series, the long stage from Ladysmith to Newcastle was modified this year – it was made about 30km longer by taking in Dannhauser as a side-trip and what did we have? We had roadworks!

The local police turned out in full force to guide riders through the various diversions and obstacles but they were all in the regularity section of the stage and this, together with the endless succession of coal-filled heavy trucks lumbering up the hills at about 10k.p.h. must have added a few more grey hairs to some of the keener rallyists.

Certainly the next control after this little lot was the most talked-about of the whole event, and although we are not aware of any competitor having run out of petrol between Stuart Halsall the first bike away at the six o’clock start from Durban. Ladysmith and Newcastle there must have been some silent prayers being offered on the last few kilometres into the overnight stop.

Peter Aneck-Hahn who won the D-J in 1980, limped into Newcastle with the gearbox of his Ariel Red Hunter firmly stuck in top and had to call it a day there, as did Hugh and Betty Jones who were doing well in the sidecar class when the rear tyre of their Harley Davidson outfit also decided that it had had enough just before the day’s final control.

Overnight, Ralph Lange with a total day’s penalty of 89 seconds over 14 controls (!) was beating Frank Hay ward in second place by 17 seconds. Betty Richmond, another potential winner, was in the top dozen exactly level pegging with husband Cyril.

Cyril blew it on the second day and finished well down, probably because as usual he lost time helping other riders in trouble but he himself attributed his downfall to the fact that Betty had a better mechanic than he did!

It’s quite astonishing how frequently the D-J leader at Newcastle becomes complacent or nervous on the second day while a determined placeman pulls out all the stops to overtake him on what is usually regarded as a rather straight forward route for an experienced rallyist, and that is exactly what happened this year.

In truth, we wouldn’t know whether or not Ralph got complacent and those of us who know him would think it highly improbable that he got nervous, but for whatever reason he finished the event with a loss of 274 seconds while Frank took the Schlesinger Vase with a penalty of 229 seconds; and looking at these figures, perhaps the second day wasn’t so straightforward after all.

There were the usual groups of spectators viewing the event from the roadside, particularly after Greylingstad, and the crowd at the finish at the City Deep market was immense, but strangely there was a complete absence of spectator interest at the Newcastle start on Saturday morning, yet ten years ago when the place was a small dorp, the whole town turned out for the event. Sic transit gloria mundi!

There weren’t many machine failures or dramas on the second day – there rarely are – but Stewart Halsall who had nursed his fixed-drive 1910 Bradbury all the way to Standerton had to put it on a trailer for the last lap, when it broke a valve. He didn’t get the Hard Luck trophy, but he must have been a strong contender for it.

The Barrett Trophy in fact went to Harry and Lorna Shutler who retired rather early on the first day when the clutch failed on their beautifully restored Williamson outfit.

Stuart Halsall the first bike away at the six o’clock start from Durban.

Sparky Davidson, who received the trophy for the most sporting rider being push-started by Garth the man from Castrol.

Robin Foxcroft push-starting his single speed beltdrive Norton at Durban. He injured his arm when the beaded-edge tyre on the rear wheel blew out near Pietermaritzburg.

“PA” v.d. Merwe one of the four competitors on this years D-J who competed in the original D-J race, on his Triumph on Town Hill.

Andy Murray, who pushed his bike 5 kilometres to the final control at Newcastle after the engine dropped a valve. The bike was repaired and he made it to Johannesburg on his 3 valve Rudge.

Two young ladies on twostrokes. On the left Mrs. C.T. Hall on a DKW with Mrs. Pam Hall on a Zundapp. Both completed the run without incident.

The overall winner, Frank Hayward receiving his trophies from Mrs. Ailsa Wessels wife of the Deputy Editor of the Rand Daily Mail, with John de la Hunt, Clerk of the course and Mrs. Lilian Bond wife of the M.D. of Castrol looking on.

Frank with his armful of trophies.
Photo: Courtesy of Rand Daily Mail.