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May 4, 2011

Yamaha's Racing History Began With A Hill Climb In Japan Back In 1955

Teruo Okada

It took just twenty-nine minutes and seven seconds for Yamaha's long and glittering history in motorcycle racing to begin. In the summer of 1955 a fresh and passionate desire to prove to Japan and eventually the rest of the world that their two-stroke machinery was peerless and formidable a newly formed directive in the Hamamatsu HQ of Yamaha conscripted ten riders to steer the YA-1 "Red Dragonfly" to victory in the most prestigious national race of the time; the Mount Fuji Ascent Race. Teruo Okada was among the group that were selected to train and test for the '55 edition of the event that had become a prized bone of contention among Japanese brands. Evolving the YA-1 into a race-model included work on the silencer and other modifications to help with the 24km hill-climb with 1400m of altitude variation.

The R and D team, that were actually developing the 175cc YC1 at the time, found themselves with intense double shifts in order to deliver 16 engines for the July competition. Okada was the liveliest of the bunch when it came to race day and his skills and persistence on the YA-1 Yamaha's inaugural motorcycling experiment after branching out from fame for musical instrument construction delivered the first major triumph and his 29 minute trek up the side of one of Japan's most iconic sites sealed success ahead of 49 other bikes and sixteen rival makes in the 125cc category. Vindicated by this achievement, Yamaha would go on to form a race department, head overseas and make an impression in the United States and then, just nine years after Okada began it all by bouncing and twisting his way up the slippery slopes of Mt Fuji, Yamaha would be FIM Grand Prix World Champions.
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