1961 Was year Zero of GP dominationby Harry Fisher, on LISTEN 02:55
Back in 1961, Yamaha entered the world stage of Grand Prix motorcycle racing. In 2021, the Iwata, Japan, based company is celebrating 60 years of Grand Prix success with a line up of special-liveried ’R’ models recalling the livery of those first racing motorcycles.
Yamaha Celebrates 60 Years of Racing Success
Racing has been an integral part of Yamaha’s DNA from the day that the factory was incorporated on July 1st, 1955. At the time, the company proved its products on the racetrack just days after Yamaha Motor Company was founded, when the YA-1 won the Mount Fuji Ascent Race at its very first attempt in July of 1955.
Yamaha then entered its first international race at Catalina, USA in 1958. By now the company was developing competitive 2-stroke machines, and the decision was made to experience the ultimate test of rider and machine by entering its 250cc RD48 race bike in the World Championship Grand Prix round in France in May 1961. Like all the Japanese factories, this debut was low-key and gave no indication of the success that would come in the following years and decades.
Just two years after Yamaha’s debut GP, Fumio Ito took the brand’s first ever GP win on the RD56 at the Belgian Grand Prix. In 1964, Yamaha won its first World Championship as well as its first Constructor’s title with Phil Read in the 250cc class.
It was the beginning an incredible journey for everyone involved in the company’s race programme, and during the past 60 years Yamaha has established itself as one of the most successful manufacturers with over 500 Grand Prix race wins, along with 38 rider titles, 37 constructor titles and 7 team titles.
That debut in 1964 was also the debut of what was to become one of the most iconic race bike colour schemes ever: a white fairing with a solid red stripe and red front fender. it was the forerunner of the Yamaha ’Speed Block’ design that was so prominent in the late 1970s on Kenny Roberts’ title winning Yamaha race bikes and would continue through to the Rainey/Lawson era of GP racing.
Now, Yamaha is celebrating the 60th Anniversary of its GP debut with a line-up of retro-liveried ’R’ models: R1, R3, R7 and R125.
Each bike features fairing and tank in white and red, a red front mudguard and gold wheels: I’ve gone weak at the knees!
The new-livery models should be in showrooms by the end of the year, but don’t expect them to stay there long!