As happened two years previously, the riders had a cool, cloudy Friday morning, but heavy rain fell in the afternoon. The competitors were already experiencing road surfaces that had seriously deteriorated over the past year and, of course, when the roads became awash, the many potholes were hidden.
So it became a very challenging ride as the competitors now had to cope with rain-lashed visors, clocks and rally boards as well. Several bikes sustained damage, including Jim Williamson's BSA, which had to be withdrawn with broken suspension.
It was clear at the Newcastle night stop that the drop-out rate was high because of "water in the electrics" and tyre and wheel problems. An added hazard was that a 16km stretch of road had been "scarified" for resurfacing. This caused a lot of "tramlining" for the narrow-tyred bikes.
When Saturday dawned with steady rain and wet roads, the prospect of being overhauled by heavy vehicles in conditions of poor visibility and bad road surfaces caused several competitors to withdraw.
Although the finisher's medal is cherished by DJ riders, "there is always next year" and, for some, pulling out at Newcastle was the right thing to do.
The wet and rough road conditions were not quite as serious as the day before, but only 73 cold and wet riders clocked in at the finish at the James Hall Museum of Transport. Here they were each handed their finishers' medals by Rob Davey of the Trilogy Benefits Group.
The overall winner was Mike Ward of the Vintage Motorcycle Club, riding a 1936 Velocette MAC, who lost only 144 seconds over the two days. Close behind was Leo Middelberg on a KSS model, so making it a Velocette one-two.
In addition to receiving the Dick Osborne Floating Trophy, the winner was photographed holding the original Schlesinger Vase. This magnificent silver trophy was originally presented by I W Schlesinger on the occasion of the second Durban-Johannesburg race in 1914. Now 90 years old, the trophy is kept safely locked away for the rest of the year.
Special mention must be made of Hew Hollard who competed, soon after a spell in hospital, and gained his 25th consecutive finisher's medal.
The veteran Ian Brodie, who nowadays rides sidecar with his son, again took part and kept his record of having ridden in every one of the 34 commemorative DJ motorcycle trials to date.
At the time of going to press, we learnt with great sadness that Brian Elam, one of this year's finishers, had recently died of a heart attack. A popular member of the Classic Motorcycle Club of Natal, Brian was a regular rally competitor and was the club's dating officer.
The 2004 DJ Motorcycle Trial
By: Mike Milner-Smyth.
Article appeared in Classic Car Africa magazine Volume 8 number 4 winter edition 2004.
The 2004 Trilogy Durban-Johannesburg Motorcycle Trial took place on 8-9 March. It was organised, as before, by the Vintage and Veteran Club, and this was the 34th running of the event. Clerk of the Course was Jan Steenkamp.
The entry list was a little down on last year, with 114 riders coming to the line. The event is nevertheless the biggest competitive rally of its kind.
This year the organisers welcomed a new sponsor, the Trilogy Benefits Group, which has expressed its intention to support the event over the next two years as well. The event is also inscribed on the international calendar by the African Motorcycle Union, which is the African division of the FIM. The AMU has expressed its full support for this historic event and is hoping for a further increase in overseas and African participation in future.
In addition to five entries from Zimbabwe and Namibia, there were three entries from the United Kingdom and two from the United States this year. The latter five were riding bikes loaned by local enthusiasts. Notable among these visitors was John Lawes of the Vintage Motor Cycle Club in England, for whom he has been the BMW and German bike specialist for some 30 years. Also in the cast was David Campbell of Alaska, who is editor of the monthly magazine for the AJS and Matchless Club of North America. He was naturally riding a Matchless.
A prized entry this year was the BSA Blue Star Special of Jim Williamson. When new, this machine won the 1933 DJ race in the hands of Burton Kinsey, and it was making a welcome return after 71 years.
Frank Hayward was awarded the Neil Smith Trophy for riding the longest distance (831 kilometres) to the start of the event. He finished 17th overall on his newly restored 1928 Indian. Picture: Liz Addison
DJ winner Mike Ward (right) receives the Schlesinger Vase from Peter Elliott, chairman of the Rand Motoring Club. Picture courtesy of Mike Milner-Smyth