The Motorcycle Federation of Japan has established a national Motorcycle Hall of Fame. For its inaugural year, it has inducted two important figures in two-wheel racing into its ranks. The inductees were announced Saturday, December 15, at an award ceremony in Tokyo.
The first of two inductees was none other than Honda works rider Kunimitsu Takahashi. Takahashi won the 1961 World GP 250cc race at the Hockenheimring in West Germany, helping Honda take the manufacturer’s championship in both the 125cc and 250cc classes that year. Sadly, due to injuries suffered a crash at the Isle of Man TT in 1962, Takahashi retired from motorcycle racing. Instead, he took up automobile racing, and became a beloved driver for Nissan. However, The dual championships Takahashi helped seize fueled the company’s rocketship trajectory in the world of motorcycle racing, and contributed greatly to making Honda a household name around the world.
The second inductee was Mitsuo Itoh, who became the first Japanese rider to win the Isle of Man TT in 1963, racing a Suzuki RM63 in the 50cc Ultra-Lightweight class. Ito was born in Iwata City, located in Shizuoka Prefecture, the mecca of Japanese motorcycle production. He had been active in racing since the 2nd Asama Volcano race in 1959. Itoh also went on to race automobiles, campaigning a single-seater Suzuki Fronte RF in Formula Junior.
Both men were humble as the received their awards, a crystal trophy and a bouquet of flowers each. “Thinking back, I was fortunate to be able to challenge the World Grand Prix as just a boy who liked to race,” Takahashi said. He was just 20 years old when he was recruited to race on the Honda works team.
“I think that I was able to achieve the result only with the power of the people who made the racing machine back in the day,” Takahashi continued. “I’m thankful to everyone for receiving the MFJ’s new Hall of Fame awards.”
Itoh was similarly modest. “I won this prize only as a result of a team effort. Having worked together with those colleagues, I happened to win at Isle of Man TT, so I personally do not think that I deserve the prize alone. I would like to thank everyone for the prize. ”
The Motorcycle Federation of Japan was established in 1961 and offers services, assistance, and guidance for riders, like the Japan Automobile Federation, analogous to the AAA in the US, does for drivers. However, like the JAF does for auto racing, the MFJ is also the sanctioning body for most of Japan’s motorcycle races. With the establishment of the Hall of Fame, hopefully Japan’s rich history on two-wheels will be remembered.
Images courtesy of Honda, Suzuki, MFJ.