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Classic Camera: Track attack, August 1958

James Robinson
April 4, 2014
Les Smith gets ready

In the course of its 10 miles the pass rises about 4060ft, and until the Jeep came into being, was passable only by mule. In a Jeep, it was reckoned that the climb took four hours – on a good day. The gradient could be gauged by the fact that at one point it rises 2000ft in 2.7 hours, with drops of up to 1000ft in several places…

So when the Maritzburg Club decided to stage a ‘stiff’ venue for a hillclimb, there was only one place to try. Smith and his pal Gerrie Walker – a pair of ex-pat Brits – were charged with ‘testing the course’.

Walker used a 197cc Dot but their plans were disrupted when, on the morning of the attempt, a crack was discovered in the subframe of Smith’s Velo. It was welded up nearby and the plan was back on…

While Walker was held up for five minutes by border police and had to stop for a rest owing to sheer exhaustion, he accomplished the task. Smith did the same (completed the ride) in a time of 33 minutes, although at one point he had to “summon the help of several labourers to carry his machine over a boulder strewn track” owing to blasting taking place.

But the hillclimb ‘proper’ never took place, as although verbal permission had been granted, the district commissioner rescinded it – meaning Smith and Walker were class record holders! bike

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