The Classic Motorcycle Rally
This website documents the history of the World-famous motorcycle race staged between Durban and Johannesburg, South Africa. The goal was to win the coveted Schlesinger Vase - a large silver trophy.
First run in 1913 it quickly gained popularity and proved to be tough-going. Sheer determination and courage of the riders prevailed.
Initially there were no tarmac roads and many of the surfaces were rough and hard-going. It was only in the last years leading up to 1936 that some of the roads were tarred.
Riders had to make regular stops to open and close farm gates along the way. It was also a flat-out race, not quite the sedate two-day timed regularity rally it is today.
In those bygone days of motorcycling the race was a test of man and machine. The machines of the time could be unreliable and on many occasion had fence wire or bailing twine added along the way to "keep things together".
The "DJ" became a world-class event attracting riders and machines from around the world and it was a sad day indeed when the race was banned. Resurrected in 1970 it became a rally or regularity trial rather than a race.
WELCOME TO THE DJ RUN
The extract below, taken from the 1927 programme, certainly captures the atmosphere, excitement and interest in the race since its inception fifteen years earlier.
"The romance of half a hundred speedmen pounding hot engines over the rugged 400 miles separating the coast from South Africa's greatest metropolis has gripped the imagination of sportsmen all the world over. The Durban-Johannesburg motorcycle race has come to rank as one of the Empire's classic events; local enthusiasts go mad over it, the race is "splashed" in the South African press and the English periodicals wax enthusiastic. The race was born in 1913 when Captain HN Lloyd organised it and the winner is awarded the famous Schlesinger Vase, a silver trophy costing 125 pounds."
THE SCHLESINGER VASE
The RAND MOTOR CYCLING CLUB (RMCC) was formed in Johannesburg in about 1910 and was successor to the defunct Johannesburg Motor Cycling Club. The club ran under this title until early 1934 when it changed its name to RAND MOTORING CLUB (RMC).
The RMCC organised the first of the Johannesburg - Durban motorcycle races in 1913.
The First Prize was the £105 “Hutchinson Trophy”, presented by the Hutchinson Tyre Company which was the major motorcycle tyre supplier in those days. There were 66 entries for that race with 60 starters and about 20 finishers.
For the 1914 event Mr I W Schlesinger, who was the President of the RMCC, presented the club with the “Schlesinger Vase” which he had commissioned to be made in London and was valued at £125.
This replaced the Hutchinson Trophy as the award for the winner of the Johannesburg Durban race series and is still in use today as the main trophy for the winner of the Commemorative DJ rally series.
New York-born Issy Schlesinger began selling Life Insurance in Johannesburg and he built up a huge Insurance/Hotel and Entertainment empire comprising African Life Assurance, the African Theatres cinema chain and African Caterers (Carlton and Polana Hotels). He also established the Zebedela Citrus Estate which, at one stage, was the largest in the world.
He started African Mirror, a popular weekly newsreel which was screened at most cinemas on a national basis.
It was silent until 1938 and invariably showed scenes of the D-J Race at the beginning of June each year. These old newsreels are all in the Film Archives in Pretoria.
Alf Long on a 1923 Indian.
Photograph: James Hall Museum of Transport
The Schlesinger Vase. This magnificent trophy is owned by The Rand Motoring Club and The James Hall Museum of Transport is the custodian.
Photograph: James Hall Museum of Transport
I, John Austin-Williams, webmaster, will be grateful for any contributions such as photographs, stories, newspaper clippings, magazine articles etc.
It would be appreciated if current owners and riders of DJ Bikes can come forward with contributions. I have been given material from several sources, mostly photocopies of newspaper and magazine articles. Unfortunately in many cases the quality of the images is poor - I have "tweaked" them as best as possible.
If anyone has copies of original magazines I would appreciate being able to scan them in order to improve the quality of the images.
Each year has its own page, as too do the motorcycles that were ridden between 1913 and 1936. See Year by Year
Please feel free to contact me as follows:
Cell: +27 (0) 83 459-7802