Wednesday, 10 March 2010


By 1953 there were over 80 manufacturers producing motorcycles in Japan and just like anywhere else, competition on the track was seen as the way to prove whose bikes were the best in the drive for increased sales. The Tokyo Motor Cycle Race Association was formed and held their first meeting in the shadows of Mt Fuji on a 17 mile volcanic ash course that wound its way through villages and up over the mountain (just like the IoM TT). That race was won by a 150cc Monarch with Suzuki winning the lightweight class by default as the only finisher. By 1958 Yamaha were sweeping all before them at Mt Fuji and also took the first four places at the new Asama races organised by the Nippon Motorcycle Race Association. Flushed with success, Yamaha became the first Japanese manufacturer to race overseas by entering the 1958 Catalina GP in Southern California, another course that winds its way through village streets and up mounain sides. They arrived with their 250cc 2-stroke "Asama" Racer based on their road-going YD2 machine and made a damn good impression. Factory rider Fumio Itoh firmly placed his name in the history books by finishing a credible 6th place against much more powerful Manx Nortons and the like.

The bike still remains in America and by the look of the fabulous photographs at the top of this post, it has been well preserved. For more information on this bike, the Catalina GP, American racing motorcycles and big ole American cars take a look at the fantastic "Poppa Wheelie" blog.

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Whitehaven, Cumbria, United Kingdom
Disenchanted City Boy who rode out of the fast lane and into the back lanes! Life on Two Wheels is so much fun.