A  History of Classic Racing  50cc Motorcycles


1963 JAPANESE 50cc GRAND PRIX - Dave Simmonds

Photos and some text by Jeep

As most 50cc racing enthusiasts probably know I was fortunate enough to be invited to Japan by Tohatsu’s racing department, to compete on their machines in the Japanese G.P.  Well I know this was a few months ago but I thought some of you would like to hear about it so I decided to write a few words on the trip, and besides it helps to fill up the magazine.

I left London Airport on Saturday November 2nd, on a Comet of a well known circa. £80,000,000 airline, and arrived in Tokyo very tired at 11 p.m. Sunday, where I was promptly interviewed by a “grinning” type Japanese reporter. From there I was taken to a small hotel (3500 rooms) where I was told that I would have to get up at 6am next morning in order to catch a train to the circuit, some 300 miles away. That next morning turned out to be a costly one for me, because in the rush to the station my luggage was lost, in­cluding my riding gear, at the time the only person who seemed to be worried about it was me, everybody else seemed to think it would turn up somehow.

When I arrived at the circuit, it was a Honda practice day, and the speed that the new 50 cc twin was lapping at frightened me to death, in fact in the ensuing days it turned out that Taveri’s fastest lap on his 50 was faster than my best on the 125 Tohatsu.

The next day was panic stations because my people just realised that my riding gear had been lost and that they would have to replace them pretty quick as they wanted me to have some unofficial practice on Tuesday and Wednesday. When Tuesday afternoon arrived I managed to borrow most of the gear from other riders and I took out one of the 125’s for practice, but after only a few laps it seized. I then took out another 125, which again locked up throwing me off without injury. The next afternoon I put on a new pair of light weight leathers and took out the "50" but on the 3rd lap the piston seized on a fast right-hander depositing me on the tarmac at a great rate of knots, and in the ensuing slide wore a hole in my leathers, very painful for a few days on my “you know what”! That was my lot for that day, and very expensive practicing it turned out to he, because later I found out that it cost £100 an hour to hire the circuit, so my second session turned out to be a costly £50 a lap.

During the official practicing we had quite a few mechanical mishaps, but eventually just managed to qualify on the back row of the grids, and it was very evident that the Suzuki’s would really have to fly to catch Taveri’s flying 50 cc twin (reputed to turn out 13 B.H.P. These were the Honda RC113 model, introduced for the Japanese GP of '63', it is a twin with the same bore and stroke as the previous RC112, 33 x 29 mm for a total capacity of 49.6 cc, but now with four valves per cylinder. Total valve angle is 72 degrees, symmetrical: both inlet and exhaust valves are under an angle of 36 degrees. Ignition is by a transistorized, breaker less system, with 8 mm spark plugs. ). 

The line up was seven Suzukis, five Honda twins, two Tohatsu machines and the lone Kreidler. The start was by traffic lights, red, orange, then green, and we were away; I was about midfield away from the start, but as soon as we reached the long back straight (1 mile long) the faster machines came flying past, my team-mate Adaka, was first to retire with a seized motor after only half a lap. I proceeded to lap at a steady rather than fast speed, but at about half distance the motor started to misfire and it got progressively worse until the motor stopped on the last but one lap, but as I had completed the required number of laps to qualify as a finisher, I was credited with 10th position

The 125cc race was more exciting for me, I got away well and was about in 6th or 7th position for a while, but soon dropped down the field again. I was having a good dice against a couple of ‘old” works Honda twins, but on the sixth lap my motor locked solid as I went past the start and finish. Fortunately my left hand was now working like greased lightening, and I managed to withdraw the clutch. Poor Adaka retired on the first lap again.

The presentation of awards was a fabulous affair (nobody was “improperly dressed”), with naturally Fumio Ito getting the biggest cheer, he’s certainly very popular in Japan, in fact a National Hero. After the awards there was an almighty “Nosh Up”, with exotic Japanese dishes and beer on top, served by even more exotic Japanese dishes (Yes! female type), anyway it was a fabulous end to a fabulous trip.

Dave Simmonds.

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