HONDA 50 Years Ago in the Isle of Man

 

The 2009 Tourist Trophy races in the Isle of Man was a significant date in the history of motorcycle racing for Honda. It was 50 years ago that Honda came to the Isle of Man to enter the TT in June 1959. The team manager was Mr Kiyoshi Kawashima, who in later years became company president for Honda.

The riders in 1959 were, Naomi Taniguchi, Teisuke Tanaka, Giichi Suzuki, Junzo Suzuki, and American William Hunt (Known as Bill and advisor to the team). There was another rider who was down to race but sadly he was killed whilst making a film on motorcycling in Japan. His name was Kusihiko Akiyama, he was laid to rest in Tokyo. However the team brought a lock of his hair and a photo of him to be buried at Balacraine Hill from where you can see a spectacular view of the course.

Bill Hunt had booked the Nursery Hotel in Onchan to be the teams headquarters. The Hotel was just off the Clypse Course and all 12 rooms had been booked plus the outbuildings of the Hotel. The outbuildings were to be used as workshops for the Honda team. They also brought their own food and cook. The interpreter was Kay Carran who lives in Castletown in the Isle of Man. Honda was using RC141's and RC142's which were 125 machines. They hoped to race on the 37.75 mile TT circuit, however this was limited to 350 and 500cc machines. The Clypse course was used for 125 and 250cc and side cars at that time. So Hondas debut in the Isle of Man was on the Clypse course.

Honda brought along four production Honda Benly 125 Super Sports to learn the course on. The bikes had been specially fitted with 150cc barrels and pistons compared to the standard 125cc. They thought the little extra capacity would help them climb the mountain to Creg na Bar. Honda shipped five RC141 race bikes from Japan. These were 125cc twin cylinder, double overhead camshaft, with flat slide Keihin Carburettors, dry clutch and 6 speed gear box. In the race on the Clypse course Honda won the team prize with the following placings. Naomi Taniguchi finished 6th(Silver Rep),  Giichi Suzuki finished 7th (Bronze Rep), Teisuke Tanaka finished 8th (Bronze Rep), Junzo Suzuki finished 11th (Finishers Medal). Bill Hunt crashed on lap 3 of the 10 lap race, damaging his bike and was unable to continue. Interestingly Bill Hunt opened the first shop for Honda in Los Angeles in 1960.

Fast forward to 2009 and to coincide with Hondas 50th TT year the Manx National Heritage museum in Douglas put on an exhibition of Honda historic motorcycles from the 1960's. The motorcycles and Memorabilia were provided by private owners. On display were the following motorcycles, a 1960 CB92, 1961 RC161, a CR93 and a George Beale 297cc 6 cylinder RC174 replica.

A chance of a lifetime happened at this years TT - Naomi Taniguchi was in the Isle of Man for the Honda 50th anniversary and was staying in a hotel in Douglas with friends from Japan. Yuki Kobayashi who is a motorcycle racer and a journalist whom I know arranged for me to meet Mr. Taniguchi. I met him at the Hotel and introduced myself after which I passed some gifts to him. These included a copy of the VJMC100 year book, a first day cover set of the Isle of Man stamps "Honda through the years" which include Taniguchi on one of the stamps. He was pleased to receive them.

I had ridden my own 1960's CB92 Honda Benly Super Sport down to the Hotel. Mr.Taniguchi came out of the Hotel to view the bike. He hadn't had the opportunity to ride a motorcycle during his visit to the TT so I asked him if he would like to ride the CB92 round as lap of the Clypse course. Through his interpreter he replied that he would be very happy to do this and that he had brought with him  his leathers and helmet.

At 7pm Mr Taniguchi, Mr Sakamoto, Mr Unno, Mr Takizawa and MR Okubo called at my house in Onchan for tea and exchange more gifts. Mr Taniguchi changed into his leathers. We then got the bikes out of the garage. I had the CB92 ready for him to ride and he asked if I would accompany him on my C72. I could not believe I was about to go for a lap of the Clypse course with the first rider from Japan to win a silver rep!

Unfortunately it was not possible to take any photos of Taniguchi riding the CB92 since I was also riding with him, however Mr Sakamoto who is editor in chief of Yaesu Publishing (motorcycle magazines) in Tokyo drove ahead to take photos of the lap. Mr Taniguchi was very happy after the ride and it brought back fond memories of the 1959 TT. He looks very well for 73 years of age and said he keeps slim and fit so he can still ride motorcycles.

I have since received a motorcycle magazine form Mr Sakamoto in Japan which includes photos from Taniguchis visit and ride.

What a TT week for me in 2009, priceless!

written by :John Dalton, Isle of Man, 2009

On John's Bike