The 1986 “J-D” – D-J Run
Sponsored By:- “Business Day” and “Castrol”

Report by Coen Deetlefs

From the April 1986 SAVVA Automobilist magazine, volume 12 number 1

If I were a superstitious person (which I am not), I would have had forebodings of evil happenings ahead when I found I had been allocated No 13 for this year’s D-J. First of all the 1922 Douglas which I had prepared and entered ran its bearings on the Sunday afternoon before the event. There was plenty of oil passing through the sight glass on the tank and we have not yet determined the cause of the bearing failure. I then switched my entry to my faithful 1930 Rudge which I had standing by as a reserve entry only to have the magneto fail shortly after lunch on the first day. The condenser packed up and there is no chance of repairing that by the roadside. I can’t really complain as that magneto had been on the bike when I bought it in 1968 and magnetos are best left alone apart from the occasional oiling, cleaning and points checking. So for the fourth time in fifteen starts I failed to get a finishers medal.

Looking at the entry list when I received it, two things were noticeable, in the first place there were only two Veterans entered, the 1913 Bradbury of Johnny van Rooyen and Jannie v.d. Mescht’s. 1917 Indian Power Plus, this was sad to see as the veterans normally create a lot of interest, secondly was the large number of entrants who had opted for speed group 2 with a maximum of 60 kph. There were machines there that could hold their own in group 3 and possibly in group 4. I think 1936 BSAs, AJSs, Nortons etc. have no place in group 2.

This year the BSA entry dominated with 16 of them entered, 14 each of Sunbeam and Triumph, 11 each of Norton and Velocette with 9 AJSs being the last big group.

Documentation took place at the Hotel Braamfontein in a very spacious parking garage where a very nice atmosphere was created by the efficient manner in which documentation was done. Castrol had their own stall from which the usual oil, handcleaner etc., was issued to competitors. Joan Mooney had another stall where she presided over accommodation problems and table bookings for the prize giving party in Durban.

Most of the motorcycles appeared to be well prepared and there was very little fettling being done there, the usual three or four slightly scruffy machines were there as well, but those same machines seem to appear each year for the D-J.

The competitors meeting was held on the pool-deck of the hotel which easily accommodated everybody. Keith Michler, the clerk of the course, being a stickler for correct procedures explained at length the do’s and don’ts of the regulations. One of these referring to passing through the final control with the engine running was modified after discussion to allow a competitor who broke down just before such a control to push his machine through the control and thus be enabled to be classed as a finisher.

The route schedule consisted of 14 pages of precalculated instructions and was quite good, with at first glance, few tricks, but the large number of speed changes, following at short intervals, would require intense concentration to be able to stay on time.

Day One

The first competitor was flagged off at 9 a.m. by the Mayor of Johannesburg Clr. Ernie Fabel and the rest followed at 1 minute intervals. A map of the route out of the city had been displayed at documentation, which made it easier for out-of-town competitors to find their way onto the road to Heidelberg. One of them told me afterwards that he was petrified by the way the Johannesburg drivers cut from lane to lane.

The route out of Johannesburg went via End Street on to the Heidelberg road past the Market where the D-J normally ends and then on through Alberton. Down the long hill in Alberton where on earlier D-J’s that hill was the last real obstacle before the finish at City Deep. Then through Heidelberg, Balfour and Greylingstad for the first refuelling stop. The first tricky section was through Balfour where the speed was 23 kph with a marshal situated immediately outside Balfour, many were caught out here, because even in low gear it was difficult to trickle along at about 15 miles per hour, yet Mark Corlett, the eventual winner, scored a zero there.

Lunch was again at Mike’s Kitchen in Standerton and very good it was too with a wide choice of hot and cold foods you could help yourself to. I was just thinking to myself that the most boring part of the rally was really over, about 10km. from Volksrust, when the magneto on my Rudge called enough.

My son who was taking photographs for Automobilist soon arrived and we loaded the Rudge on our bakkie. Arriving at Volksrust I saw the riders donning their rain suites and when I looked ahead towards Laings Nek and Majuba, I saw black clouds rolling on with much lightning evident. As we started the descent down the steep winding road we ran into a cloudburst with some hail added and forward vision limited to about 50 metres and I was glad that I was in my car. There were three marshals in this section and they are the real heroes for sticking to their positions, some sheltered in their cars, but at least one group could not do that and sheltered under their umbrellas as best they could. A number of bikes stopped with water in the electrics and Hennie van Niekerk just missed becoming involved in a head-on collision between two cars, the one car had just passed him when it spun on braking for a sharp bend and into an oncoming car.

Those riders wearing full-face helmets were lucky as those with open face helmets and wearing goggles had to protect their faces with one hand against the hail while trying to stay on the road. Digital clocks also suffered as their dials went blank when water penetrated the works.

The Old Hooters Club members again provided hot tea, coffee and biscuits at B.J. Ford in Newcastle and most welcome it was, especially to those who had been through the deluge. Our sincere thanks to Lou Bornman and his club members who provided this service.

Another innovation this year was a cocktail party given by the Mayor and councillors of Newcastle at the Iscor Club House. Most competitors and officials attended and it was a very pleasant event with enough to eat and drink and the venue lent itself to making this a nice way to spend a pleasant hour or so without it being crowded.

Back at B.J. Ford there were very few machines being worked on, despite the large number of breakdowns, most of the motorcycles suffered such damage that their riders could not repair them. Two exceptions were Marius Jordaan and Ian Otridge. Marius had to fix both ignition and oil pipe problems which he managed to do while Ian had suffered gearbox seizure on his Ariel. The gearbox was stuck in low gear and he battled the last 20 kms to Newcastle in low gear only, but managed to finish before the hour allowed for late arrival expired. When he stripped the gearbox he found that due to using grease as a lubricant, low gear had welded itself to the shaft. Attempts to free the gear using the gas-welding equipment in the workshop and even a hydraulic press failed to free the gear and it was decided to use the cutting torch to cut the gear from the shaft and then grind the shaft so that second and top could move along it. That having been done and the gearbox re-assembled he found, on trying to start the engine that the exhaust valve was stuck open, having overheated when Ian rode the Ariel in low gear to Newcastle. After another two hours work the valve was eventually extracted, the stem ground down, the engine put together again and started.

For the rest of the run he bump-started it in second gear, and with only second and third gears working managed to get to Durban, and be classed as a finisher. If it were not for the workshop facilities made available by the owners of B. J. FORD over the years, many competitors would not have been able to get a finishers medal, our sincere thanks go to them.

Day Two

The first machines left Newcastle at 6 a.m. on the long trek to Ladysmith and then a very early lunch (± 10 a.m.) at Estcourt, where a very nice meal was served. The refuelling stop was at Mooi River and the route then followed the old road to Pietermaritzburg. Not much maintenance seems to be done to the road surface and it makes for a very bumpy ride on girder fork machines especially as the speeds were a little on the high side for the existing road conditions.

Going down Town Hill into Pietermaritzburg was an exciting experience for some considering the feeble brakes on some of the older bikes and much use was made of the lower gears to slow them.

At the refuelling stop at Pietermaritzburg the weather again seemed very threatening and rain suits were again in use. The late numbers, from about No 60 onwards, suffered the most on both days as they bore the full brunt of the storm. On this day the rain came down as the riders wended their way through the Valley of a Thousand Hills on the way to the finish on the North Coast, where a large crowd awaited the competitors.

At the finish was the only occasion on this run that the organisation was not good. We are used to, at the finish at the Johannesburg Market, to be able to buy a beer or coffee and hot-dogs and other refreshments. At the finish in Durban this was lacking and considering the foul weather something hot to drink would have been welcome. Perhaps the VCC could look into this for future runs finishing in Durban.

The prize-giving party was held at the Elangeni Hotel where many of the riders were staying, it is a pleasant venue made more so by not having a band making it impossible to have a decent conversion without having to shout.

The results were delayed beyond the promised nine o’clock release due to problems with the computer printer but eventually given about a half an hour late. The major positions are printed below. It must be unique to have a father and son combination coming first and second with the son beating his father.

Some thoughts on the Run

I asked a number or riders what they thought of the run to Durban, most liked it and some expressed the opinion it should alternate, two at least was very much against the down run being repeated. My own preference would be to alternate it.

There were thirty-eight non-finishers this year, an exceptionally high number, the reasons ranged from, three with magneto problems, one holed piston, broken crank and so on, perhaps it can be put down to some of the machines having been restored many years ago and old age creeping on.

The route schedule came in for some criticism in that the higher speed groups were kept very busy with the numerous changes and also on the score of there being no lines drawn between the lines of type making it difficult to read on a rough road. An interesting suggestion was made by a couple of competitors who suggested that the route schedules only be issued say half an hour before the start of the event, to prevent those “experts” who have over the years made notes of all the route schedules from transferring that information on to the route-schedule. What do you think?

Force Majeure.

The clerk of the course, Keith Michler was placed in a predicament on Saturday evening in that four competitors were classed as non-finishers. Although their names appeared on the sequence sheets, they had not been clocked by the marshals, there was no record of the time they passed through the controls. Two happened at Majuba in the rain and the other two at the final control in Durban. This caused quite a lot of ill feeling and attempts were made to protest but to no avail. The clerk of the course maintained that as there were no times clocked for them they should be treated as if they had missed a control, and they were thus excluded. I spoke to the stewards pointing out that there was plenty of evidence that they had passed through the control, but it did not help. It is to Keith Michler’s credit that he thought about it overnight and after consulting with the stewards decided to reinstate the four riders as finishers with 1800 penalty points at those controls. I still maintain that in such circumstances the clerk of the course should have the power to scrub a control, the rules should be amended.

I mentioned earlier on that digital clocks were affected by the rain. Both Doug Whisken and Frank Hayward were effectively put out of the running when their clocks stopped running and quite a few others had only one going, perhaps the lesson is to protect them with shrink-wrap plastic.

One thing that has changed for the worse in recent years, in my humble opinion, is the attitude of most competitors towards riders who break down on the run. Not so many years ago if you happened to break down most riders would at least slow down to see if they could render any assistance and you would wave them on unless you thought they could help you or pass a message on. These days you have to stop them to ask for assistance. Is everybody out to win or don’t they care about helping?

The Hoodoo Strikes Again

My run of bad luck carried through right to the end. When I received my films back from the processer I found that the last six exposures I had made at the finish were blank, it was impossible for me to have left the lens cap on as it is a single lens reflex Canon camera, and I could see to focus and I heard the shutter operate. We loaded a 20 exposure black and white film for use with the flash gun at the prize-giving. When Paul Vink, who processed the film for me, telephoned and said we had a problem, I immediately said to him “The film is blank”, yes” he said. “I thought you had given me the wrong film”. The camera is now operating perfectly again and never in all my nearly fifty years as a photographer have I had this happen to me before.

I had half decided that this my fifteenth D-J would be my last, but I have to end with a finishers medal so health and wealth permitting I will try again, on the Douglas, next year.

1986 D-J Post-Mortems

For the first time to my knowledge two meetings, were held to discuss the D-J, the first at the Vintage Motorcycle Club’s monthly meeting and the second at the WC three weeks later.

At both these meetings the clerk of the course Keith Michler was present to answer questions and criticisms.

Most of the criticism centred on the finish at Durban where there were not sufficient officials to handle the rush of competitors who arrived in groups. The lack of refreshments also caused some unhappiness especially as it was raining and this, taken in conjunction with the fact that competitors had to wait for their luggage to arrive and then make their own way to the Elangeni Hotel upset quite a number or riders.

There were also complaints about the route schedule, too many speed changes and speeds were either too high or too low, these will always crop-up as no clerk of the course can expect to satisfy 150 competitors, a minority of whom are serious rallyists, the rest riding for the fun.

The idea was also put forward that the D-J should revert to the more care-free style of events we had in the early years of the rally. I personally enjoy seeing what different ideas the clerk of the course come up with each year: The idea of alternating between a Durban and Johannesburg start also seemed to find favour amongst those who attended the meetings.

I am publishing this short summary of the meetings for the benefit of competitors who are not in a position to attend the VMC meetings. See you on the next D-J.

Coen Deetlefs

Captions for above collage are:

1. A unique finish: Mark Corlett first overall and George Corlett, his father, 2nd overall. Our photograph shows from left to right. Keith Michler clerk of the course; George  Corlett 2nd overall, Dawn Basset who presented the trophies, Mark Corlett this year’s winner, Meg van Niekerk of Castrol and Mike Bosman, chief marshal.
2. Castrol had a special stall where free oil and other “goodies” were handed out.
3. Vincent Cook’s 277cc 1927 Triumph Type W and Fred Aulfes’ 1920 V-Twin Matchless.
4. The Mayor Clr. Ernie Fabel talking to Fred Aulfes at the start.
5. John de la Hunt on a 1936 BSA Sloper lent to him by Peter Blackwell, John received the trophy for the best performance by a first time entrant on the D-J.
6. Carl Pingle who rode a 1928 BSA sloper at one of the refuelling stops.
7. Frank McMaster on a 1928 AJS crossing the bridge at Ladysmith.
8. Jannie van der Mescht on his 1917 Indian Powerplus leaving the Hotel Braamfontein.
9. John Fletterman who rode a 1920 ABC feeding the fourteen pages of route schedule into his route-schedule box.
10. Adrian Hollis, on a BSA Sloper getting a helping hand at Estcourt.
11. Three machines from Cape Town, No. 124 Barry South’s 1930 Brough Superior, the machine in the middle a 1933 Zundapp ridden by Derek du Toit and No. 111 a 1935 Nimbus four cylinder ridden by Tooks Cross.
12. Johnny van Rooyen, 1913 Bradbury leaving Newcastle, he had a tyre burst close to Durban and did not finish.
13. Paul Vink on his 1930 Sunbeam Model 9, here seen leaving the start at Johannesburg.
14. Norman McEwan and Sonny James working on their 1934 Triumph combination with, in the background Barry Rogers, Tony Woodley and Al Gibson.
15. This beautiful 1920 James 500cc V. Twin entered by Laszlo Liszkay was unfortunately a non-starter.
16. Betty Jones on the left talking to Ian Coulthard who rode a 1932 350cc Rudge, with the ABC of John Fletterman on the right.
17. Ralph Lange on his 1935 Velocette MSS being flagged off by Dawn Bassett with Peter Blackwell and Reg Loney looking on.

Photographs by Coen and Andre Deetlefs
Layout by Futura Offset
Colour separation by S.E. Color.