Ninety entries for the 2023 iTOO DJ Motorcycle Rally

The DJ Rally presents classic motorcycle enthusiasts and owners with an opportunity to stretch their legs (excuse the pun) while enjoying loads of fun and camaraderie.

The organisers of the 2023 iTOO DJ regularity rally, for classic motorcycles made before 1937, have received an entry of 90 riders for this year’s event, which starts from the Hillcrest shopping centre outside Durban on Friday, March 10. It finishes at Benoni Northerns Sports Club the following afternoon after an overnight stop in Newcastle.

“We are delighted to have received such strong support for this prestigious event given the tough economic climate in which we are now living,” said clerk of the course, Leo Middelberg.

“We are also very happy to have an overall sponsor on board again this year, in iTOO, a special risks insurance provider. It operates as Hollard’s preferred underwriter of speciality products and partners with 650 brokers in South Africa and some other African countries and is always open for its clients.”

This is the 51st running of this regularity trial which commemorates the running of the DJ Run which was an annual race on public roads between Durban and Johannesburg between 1913 and 1936, before authorities refused to give permission for the race in 1937 due to safety concerns. This is the reason only motorcycles made up to 1936 are permitted to compete in the ongoing series of regularity rallies between the two centres.

The route of 700km follows closely to the original route of the race which was on gravel roads. Nowadays riders must contend with deteriorating road surfaces which make riding these old motorcycles even more taxing.

The winner is presented with one of the most famous sporting trophies in South Africa, the silver Schlesinger Vase, which was made in London and awarded to the winner of the second DJ race in 1914 by New York-born Issy Schlesinger. At the time he was chairman of the Johannesburg Motor Cycle Club which organised the early events and changed its name to the Rand Motoring Club in 1934.

Schlesinger is best known as the head of the African Theatres cinema chain which produced the popular African Mirror newsreel for many years.

Leo Middelberg

Several previous winners will be in the field again this year, headed up by Gavin Walton, who has five previous victories, including taking first place last year. He also won in 2009, 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Other winners in the field for the 2023 rally are seven times winner Kevin Robertson (1990, 1993, 1995, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015), Martin Davis (2006, 2007, 2011), and Mike Ward (2004). Ralph Pitchford, winner in 2016 and always a contender for top honours, has decided to take a break from the DJ this year.

There are no international entrants this year, but three South Africans have returned to the country to ride the DJ. They are Gordon Portman (1935 Royal Enfield Bullet 350), Les Youngman (1934 New Imperial 250) and David Robertson (1936 Velocette GTP 250).

The oldest rider in the field this year is 87-year-old Neville Smith, whose 1935 Rudge Rapid Tourist 250 carries the number 35 which is the year Neville was born and when his Rudge was made. He has been a DJ regular for many years and in his younger days was a successful racing driver. He competed in locally built Dart sports cars in three nine-hour endurance races at Kyalami, taking a commendable seventh overall and first in class in 1965.

The youngest entrant is 31-year-old Martin Kaiser who will ride a 1934 Sunbeam 9A 500.

The oldest motorcycle in the field is a belt-drive Durkopp 500, built in Germany in 1910, which will be ridden by Yugandhar Jasti.

The entry list includes two woman riders, Benita Palmer (1934 Coventry Eagle 250), who is a first-time entrant, and Bev Jacobs (1935 Triumph 250). The organisers are particularly pleased that there are nine first time riders in the 2023 event, which is important for its sustainability.

Three motorcycle and sidecar combinations are entered this year, being Brian Lange and Claire Hall (1929 AJS Big Twin 997), Bill and Ryan Lance (1929 AJS M8 500), and Adrian Hollis and a passenger not named (1935 Sunbeam Lion 600).

Trevor Binder, father of MotoGP racers Brad and Darryn, will compete in the DJ Rally on his 1934 Indian Scout 600, but his sons will not be joining him this time, as they did in 2020 and 2022.

Wayne Harley, curator of the Franschhoek Museum in the Western Cape has entered the DJ again. He will ride a 1923 AJS Model D 750 from the museum’s collection.

The DJ commemorative rally is organised by a team from several local motorcycle clubs under the auspices of the promoter, the Vintage and Veteran Club South Africa.

Leo Middelberg, who won this rally in 1996 as a first-time entrant riding a 1936 Velocette 350, has taken up the important position of clerk of the course for the first time. However, he is a vastly experienced rally organiser, having been assistant C of C to John Linley in the 1995 DJ Rally and has been involved as an organiser of the Magnum Rally for classic cars and motorcycles for the past 17 years, being C of C of this major event since 2014.



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