Yamaha's 60 years in Grand Prix Racing
Taking the Next Steps In Our Never-ending Challenge
Motorsports have been an essential part of Yamaha Motor’s corporate culture since our founding, and the first time a Yamaha motorcycle competed in earnest happened 10 days after the company was established, at the third Mount Fuji Ascent Race on July 10, 1955. We considered motorsports to be a valuable opportunity to demonstrate the strengths of our products to the public. We sent the newly released YA-1 to the course and took a dominating victory in our racing debut, making a major step forward as a motorcycle manufacturer. “If you’re going to do it, try to be the best.” In time, we took the words of Yamaha Motor Genichi Kawakami to heart, calling on our Spirit of Challenge to drive us to take on the world.
After making our first foray into international racing at the Catalina GP in the United States in 1958, we made our first entry in a Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix round at the Grand Prix of France in May 1961. Two years later in 1963, Fumio Ito sealed Yamaha’s first GP win at in the Belgian Grand Prix, racing an RD56 in the 250cc class. The following year we won our first Rider and Constructor titles with Phil Read’s 250cc class win. Between 1963 and 2020 we have taken 511 wins in total.
And, just as we have sought out racing victories, we have also poured our passion into supporting, safeguarding and encouraging motorsports culture as a member of the Grand Prix paddock. While things began with Grand Prix riders, we have turned our attention to riders around the world, discerning what they need and creating technologies to help grow their potential. We have also developed numerous new technologies through racing and have made it a top priority to keep feeding those results back into production models, and in these ways our challenge in racing has been a wide-ranging one.
In February of 2021 we announced that we will continue competing in MotoGP for another five years (2022–2026). As a company we have never been content with the status quo. This decision represents our commitment to pave the way forward to a fantastic future through racing, driven by our Spirit of Challenge.
We plan to release a wide variety of content on this website throughout the 2021 season.
Challenges Carving Our Name into Racing History
Sixty years have passed since Yamaha first began competing in the Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix, what is now the MotoGP World Championship. Here, we look back decade by decade at the races, machines, riders and technology from 1961 to the current day.
Celebrating 60 Years of Grand Prix Racing with YZR-M1 in Traditional Yamaha White/Red Livery
It was in 1964 that Yamaha Motor ran its first racebike painted white with red stripes. After withdrawing temporarily from Grand Prix racing in 1968, Yamaha returned in 1973 to begin a new campaign in the premier 500cc class. The YZR500 (0W20) machine entered that season also featured the white body with red lines, and the design went on to become a traditional livery for Yamaha. Crossing race categories and borders, it was used not just in Grand Prix, but also in Japan’s national road racing series, and even in motocross as well.
Then in the early 1970s, Yamaha actively bolstered its racing efforts in the United States in a push to demonstrate the excellence of its products. It was during this period that Kenny Roberts and other American legends raced machines donning a yellow background with a black “chain block” graphic, and their popularity and on-track exploits made this livery synonymous with Yamaha in the U.S.
These two distinct liveries finally came together in the 1978 Grand Prix 500cc class. Roberts rode with his signature yellow/black livery while his teammate Johnny Cecotto’s machine had Yamaha’s traditional white and red line, but it also used a chain-block-styled design with vertical slits. Race fans of the time were reminded that this red and white color scheme was the traditional look of a Yamaha racebike.
And now in 2021, the livery adorning Yamaha’s Grand Prix 60th Anniversary YZR-M1 calls on the traditional white/red design of the 1980 YZR500 (0W48) for inspiration. We revealed this special YZR-M1 to the world on March 10 at the Official Pre-season MotoGP test in Qatar with Yamaha test rider Cal Crutchlow on board. It represents a return to our roots and a firm resolve to continue our racing challenge into the future.