The undoubted star of the show was Yamaha’s first ever Grand Prix World Champion, eight-time Isle of Man TT winner, and most successful rider ever in terms of titles for the manufacturer, Phil Read. During his illustrious career, Read won 52 GPs and secured 121 podiums, plus he became the first person to win Grand Prix titles in the 125cc, 250cc, and 500cc classes. Read put Yamaha on the map in 1963 when he won the 1964 250cc World Championship on an RD56, but that was just the beginning of an epic story.
He would go on to win a further four World Championships for Yamaha, including the 1971 250cc World Championship when he competed as a privateer onboard a very special modified TD2-B of his own design. This bike was known as the Team Read Castrol Yamaha and differed from the standard bike due to a revised frame, dry clutch, disc brakes front and rear, and a radically tuned engine built by former Yamaha Race Technician Ferry Brouwer.
It was an emotional weekend for Read, as he was reunited with a lovingly restored version of this machine, along with a replica of his 1971 Team Read Castrol Yamaha 350cc bike, based on the TR2-B: “What an amazing day! Being reunited with these two bikes and seeing some old friends from the past has been incredible. It was lovely to celebrate racing history like this, and I could not believe how popular I was. I don’t think I have ever signed so many autographs.”
Alongside Read, Yamaha’s first ever 500cc Grand Prix winner, Chas Mortimer, joined the rest of the YRHC legends for Sunday’s autograph session, 50 years after taking that historic victory at the 1972 Spanish GP held on the Montjuic street circuit in Barcelona. Mortimer is the only rider in the history of motorcycle racing to have won World Championship races in the 125, 250, 350, 500 and 750 classes. Like Read, he also took eight TT victories and was delighted to participate in the event. “What an amazing set-up! I had no idea there would be such a massive turnout; it was a great way to spend the day,” commented Mortimer.
Alan Carter, who caused a sensation by winning the 250cc French GP at Le Mans in 1983 at the age of 18 in only his second World Championship race to become the youngest ever Grand Prix winner at the time, also joined in the fun. The Halifax rider even got the chance to take to the historic Donington Park track on board the actual YZR250 he rode to victory 39 years before: “To walk to the garage and see my bike from 1983, smell the engine, and to ride out of pit lane in front of the fans here at Donington, was one of the greatest moments of my life,” said Carter.
On top of this, all-round road racing legend, five-time TT winner and two-time Formula 2 World Champion Brian Reid, South African former Grand Prix rider Alan North, double British 250cc Champion Donnie McLeod, and former GP 500cc rider Steve Parrish were on hand to sign autographs for the fans and regale them with stories from yesteryear. Father and son duo Niall and “Taz” Mackenzie completed the incredible rider lineup, with three-time British Champion and former 250cc & 500cc GP rider Niall taking part in the YRHC parade lap on Gene Romero’s 1975 Daytona 200 winning TZ750. He was joined on track by “Taz”, the reigning British Superbike Champion, riding the 1991 YZR500 ridden by Niall’s teammate that year, Jean-Philipe Ruggia.
Comparing notes together afterwards, Niall admitted riding one of his heroes’ bikes was a dream come true, “I had seen pictures of the bike before, and I was a huge fan of Gene Romero as a kid, but to get to ride his Daytona 200 bike was just unreal.” For “Taz”, it was the first time he had ever ridden a 500cc two-stroke, and it was given evern more meaning knowing it was the same bike his father rode 21 years before: “I grew up looking at this bike for a long time, but never got to ride it. I only did a few laps and took it steady, but I opened it up a couple of times on the straight, and it was a beautiful bike to ride. To get to ride the same bike my father did, on track with him, in front of the fans at Donington park, was an extraordinary moment.”
The inaugural year of the YRHC has been a great success, and 2023 will see a full schedule of activities planned, with several events and more to be announced soon. If you own a classic Yamaha race bike and are interested in joining the YRHC to receive exclusive benefits such as advanced technical support and the chance to have your machine registered on the official database, email email@example.com to find out more.