A  History of Classic Racing  50cc Motorcycles




The 1967 Isle of Man International 50cc TT - June 16th 1967

This is an overview of the race with more detail to follow. The one good thing about the 50cc race was that Stuart Graham won it! For, after his brilliant ride in Wednesday’s 125 cc event, Stuart, the new boy in the Suzuki team, richly deserved a TT victory, and his success must have been one of the most popular in the series’ 60 year life.

Stuart achieved his first Isle of Man TT win on a 50 cc works Suzuki at 82.29 mph, but was worried that he might NOT have done the right thing to please his Japanese boss! The Teams orders were for him to finish third, but there is a saying about best made plans, and Stuart found, himself to be the ace in Suzuki's TT pack. Picture above: Stuart Graham by Ton Kooyman

The whispering and rumours were out with people in the bars and hotels of Douglas, I.o.M., prior to Friday, June 16, that Suzuki would be staging a three-man finish in the 50 cc event, the one massed start race of T.T. week. With Yoshimi Katayama just in front. Rumour made no allowance for the vagaries of men and machines, however. Team orders were however for Stuart to finish third, but there is a saying about best made plans, and Stuart found, himself  to be the ace in Suzuki's TT pack; 

Entering into the spirit of the slow-motion “race,” they went so painfully slowly that Katayama overhauled them in Ramsey on the second lap. At this point in the race Anscheidt was slowed by a leaking oil pump and ignition trouble. By Ballaugh the gap was down to 15 sec. By Ramsey, Katayama led from Anscheidt and Graham, but then, when Anscheidt had pulled back up, neck and neck with the leader, he looked round at the German’s oil-filmed rear wheel and rode straight into the bank on the Mountain Mile! This left Stuart to win. Tommy Robb on a “production” over the counter Suzuki" took third place, finishing a quarter of an hour after Anscheidt. No wonder people in attendance were predicting that this would be the last 50 cc race in the Isle of Man calendar !

So how did the race run? Well only the most rabid 50cc enthusiast could expect an exciting race in what may have proven to be the last 50cc TT. 

For, although there are more starters than last year's 17, there were in fact 24 listed on the rider entrants sheet, the "factory" interest has declined until, this year, only Suzuki decided to field a works team. Originally they entered four men, but Mitsuo Itoh, winner of the event in 1963, was injured in practice; and is a spectator, after being flown from Japan specially to race the TT.

And chances of the three remaining teamsters making a fight of it on their water-cooled, twin-cylinder two strokes, capable of 110 mph, are remote, It's an open secret that Suzuki have decided that Yoshimi Katayama shall be the winner if he can keep going. With the whole future of the race in the balance, Suzuki’s thinking is difficult to understand. And neither the reigning “tiddler” champ, Hans-Georg Anscheidt nor 125cc hero Stuart Graham, the other Suzuki man, are particularly happy at riding to "orders."

The Race. First Lap

But it didn't work out that way! There are under 30 starters and so it is a massed start and, after a few tense moments, away goes the field, First away from the 24 screaming machine mass was privateer Brian Gleed on his CR110 Honda, but Anscheidt's machine picked up quickly and he went ahead before the top of Bray Hill. Graham and Katayama were slow off the mark, but Stuart's machine soon chimed in on its two cylinders and he nipped through to join formation with Anscheidt.

At Ballaugh Bridge, Anscheidt leads Graham by two seconds and Katayama is now up to third place, only 1 min 55sec behind the leaders. Tommy Robb, who has taken over one of the new production, over the counter, Suzukis ( TR50) from Chris Vincent, is third ahead of Chris Goosen, riding a Derbi who was closely followed by Brian Gleed on his Honda.

Approximately 40 TR50 production racers were built in 1967 and with such a successful history in the 50cc class it was not surprising that the Suzuki company offered a production racer, the air-cooled piston port motor made 8.5hp at 11,000rpm and a speed of about 85mph. The sand-cast engine cases housed a six speed gearbox. Unusually the ignition was supplied by a half speed magneto with the drive being taken from the clutch primary shaft.

Even by “back-pedalling” to wait for Katayama, whose engine was restricted to one cylinder for the first lap, Anscheidt and Graham arrived at Ballacraine eight miles out. 1minute 8seconds before Chris Goosen. It looks as though the Suzuki plans are misfiring for Katayama is way down. At this stage Katayama is over 2m 10s behind and it is later reported that he stopped and changed a plug between Quarter Bridge and Braddan. His machine, with those, of Anscheidt and Graham, was over 25 mph faster than the others in the race and so, with the engine on full song, he soon took third place even though he was way behind his team mates. 

At the Bungalow, Anscheidt leads Graham by 4 sec and they are obviously waiting for Katayama, since the Japanese has regained half a minute since Ballacraine! But Goosen is out with gear-box trouble at Ginger Hall. So it is Brian Gleed, whose daughter was christened at Kirk Braddan church on Sunday, who lies fourth on his Honda, having passed Robb, and Martin Carney (Derbi) is sixth.

Now the two leaders cruise past the grandstand to start their second laps, sitting up and virtually “touring” while they wait for their team mate to catch them. Katayama was still 1m 8.8s behind the leaders at the end of the first lap as they  passed through the control point and were sitting-up and making it quite clear that they were playing the waiting game of racing in reverse.


FIRST LAP LEADERS                   h   m s    mph

1. H. G Anscheidt   (Suzuki)      27 23        82.67
2. S. Graham           (Suzuki)      27 23.6    82.64
3. Y. Katayama       (Suzuki)      28 31.8     79.38
4. B. Gleed               (Honda)       32 26       69.82
5. T. Robb                (Suzuki)       32 39.2   69.36
6. M. Carney          (Derbi)          32 43       69.21

                                                      h   m   s   mph

7.   C. Walpole        (Honda) 34 9.2     66.30
8.   L. Griffiths       (Honda) 34 9.2     66.30
9.   S. D. Lawley     (Honda) 34 16.4  66.07
10. T. Fearns           (Honda) 34 22.4  65.88
11.  R. J. Smith        (Derbi)    34 28.6 65.69
12.  J. Pink                (Honda)  34 22.4 65.88

Second Lap

The “race” has now degenerated into a farce. For the two leaders are going so slowly that Katayama gains half a minute on the seven-mile stretch from the start to Ballacraine. And he’s now only 43 seconds behind Graham, who, as they tour through, leads Anscheidt by one second . 

At Ballaugh, Katayama is close behind, and at Ramsey the Japanese rider is with his team-mates, So they should now be able to speed things up a little. Their speeds clarify this, Anscheidt 0.6 of a second at 82.67 mph (Ralph Bryans’ record from 1966 on a Honda is 86.49 mph). However, Katayama at 79.38 mph was still third and completing the “team-effort”. But so what. He was still 10 mph better than Gleed who filled fourth place at 69.82 mph.

Possibly, the two out in front went a little slower than they could have gone on the second circuit, but certainly Katayama went quicker. The next time he passed Ballacraine, he was only 43 sec behind, by Ballaugh the gap was down to 15 sec, by Ramsey, Katayama led by 51 sec from Anscheidt and Graham.

What ever was happening at the front, this race was not a three man affair and there was still a down-the-field race going on. Chasing Brian Gleed hard over Ballaugh Bridge and on through the Sulby Straight was Tommy Robb, who had taken over Chris Vincent's ride. However he was left alone when Goosen retired at the 20th milestone, known as Ginger Hall, with gearbox trouble.

Going back to the Suzuki plan, it looked as thought it had completely misfired, for when the leaders reached the Bungalow there was no sign of Katayama. It seemed as though he was out, so at last Anscheidt and Graham were free to turn this motorcycle tour into a proper race. 

The reason behind Katayama's disappearance was that he had come upon his team-mates during the second lap and had moved well ahead of them on the mountain climb, it was here that he made his big mistake. Apparently concerned about Anscheidt and Graham keeping station behind him, Katayama chose to look back at an inopportune spot and while his head was turned ran off the course, hit the bank and crashed.

This meant that Robb was now third. But Carney, who was close behind the Ulsterman, was also in trouble and had stopped at Ramsey. Racing properly at last, Graham completes the second lap 8 seconds ahead of Anscheidt and the two Suzukis are some 10 min ahead of Tommy Robb!

But what happened to some of the other riders? Well Jim Pink (Tohatsu Twin) had stopped at Glen Helen; Barry Smith (Derbi), riding despite his crash on Wednesday, had retired at the pits; and fourth man Brian Gleed, for reasons known only to him, had cast his Honda away at Quarter Bridge, then proceeded minus a footrest and rear brake pedal until black-flagged at the end of the second lap. He then had to spend over 5 min effecting repairs at his pit.

SECOND LAP LEADERS           h   m     s        mph

1  S. Graham (Suzuki)                    55  22.4   81.78 
2 H-G- Anscheidt (Suzuki)        55  31.2    81.57
3 T. H. Robb (Suzuki)               1      5  18.0    69.34   
4 B. Gleed 6 (Honda)                1     6  41.0    67.91
5 C. H. Walpole (Honda)         1     8  11.4     66.41
6 E. L. Griffiths (Honda)        1      8  11.4     66.41

                                                      h   m     s     mph

7  S. D. Lawley (Honda)        1   8   13.2   66.38
8  T. Fearns  (Honda)            1   9   13.4   65.42
9  T. Payne   (Honda)            1   11  23.8   63.43
10 T. Burgess (Yamaha)      1   12 02.2   62.86 
11  J. D. Lawley (Honda)       1   12 25.0   62.53
12 R. Udall (Honda)               1   12 25.4   62.53

You will notice that there is a lone Yamaha in this listing keeping up with the works machines and production racers. This is a "Bits" machine built by an enthusiast, more of this later.

Last lap:

NOW Anscheidt is in trouble. At Ballaugh he’s been reported to be 45sec behind Graham; So Stuart must have the race “in the bag.” Tommy Robb has just started his last lap and is grimacing at his crew as he goes past the pits. The spectators are looking towards Governors' Bridge to see the next rider out and Brian Gleed, in fourth place comes into sight with one foot resting on his engine casing and enters the pits. He loses 5 min 48 sec while adjustments are made to his Honda, damaged in that Quarter Bridge crash. He gets away again in twelfth place.  

Graham now leads Anscheidt by 48 seconds at Ramsey and at the Bungalow he’s stretched his lead to 51 seconds. He makes no mistakes in this last dash for the line taking Governs Bridge in style and blasting his little machine down the finish straight, receiving a tremendous round of applause as he wins his first TT.

Anscheidt is seconds, on his Suzuki RK67, and we have a 15 minute wait before Tommy Robb, on the Suzuki single TR50, arrives to clinch third place. Exactly four minutes behind Tommy, Chris Walpole (Honda), beats 53 year old Ernie Griffiths also on a Honda, by 6 seconds after a very exciting dice that lasted the whole race. No.20 Stan Lawley (Honda) is sixth, ahead of No.11 Tommy Fearns (Honda). 

Two other riders of the Production Honda racer-Chris Walpole and Len Griffiths who, with constantly changing places, produced the only really close dicing of the race, with a three-lap, wheel to wheel scrap which resulted in their finishing fourth and fifth. Sixth across the line on yet another Honda was Stan G. W. Lawley. Brian Gleed, the hero of the race, pressed on with great determination after his crash and pit repairs, to re-gain four places on the last lap and finished 8th on his CR110 Honda. 

Trevor Burgess, who was the next rider passed the chequered flag and to a very good applause by the crown on the grandstand, finished 9th enabling him to receive a Bronze Replica. He was mounted on the very reliable, home built, eight speed Yamaha special, created by Brian Woolley (see notes below).

The fastest lap for the race was set by Stuart Graham, on the Suzuki RK67, at a time of 26 minutes 34.4 seconds recording a speed of 85.19 mph. This was on lap three and was under the lap record set by Ralph Bryans at the 1966 50cc TT of 86.49 mph, who also retained the race record, set on his Honda at 85.66 mph.

Last Lap Finishers and Results.

Retired on third lap: D. A. Juler, GB (Itom). 

Retired on second lap: (in order of merit at end of Lap 1): Y. Katayema (Suzuki), M. Carney (Derbi), B. Smith (Derbi), A. J. Pink (Honda), A. G. Hutchings (Tohatsu) and M. S. Worsley (Itom).

Retired on first lap: C. Goosen (Derbi), D. L. Ryder (Derbi) and P. J. Walsh (Heldun Hawk),

Non-starters: K. Burgess (1-tom), K. Cast (Suzuki), R. J. Heath (Heldun Hurricane) and M. Itoh (Suzuki)

Click on the table to enlarge 

An Interview with Stuart Graham - What the winner said: (Some additions by the Editor)

"I like to win any race, but this was an anti-climax after Wednesday’s 125,” said 25-year-old Stuart Graham following his first TT win in the 50 cc race. “It was rather a hollow victory, but I was the lucky one today.”

Stuart then confirmed that Suzuki had wanted Yoshimi Katayama to win the race and that he and West Germany’s Hans-Georg Anscheidt had “hung around” waiting to be caught up after the Japanese rider had been forced to change a plug early while on the opening lap.

Then, after being passed by Katayama near Ramsey, Graham said he had fallen back when his Suzuki had gone onto one cylinder “as they have a habit of doing every so often ” and that he had seen the Japanese look round and run out of road. But Katayama had jumped to his feet immediately and given Stuart thumbs up as he passed.

Runner-up on the second water-cooled works Suzuki twin, reigning class World Champion, Hans-Georg Anscheidt said that he and Katayama had is been riding side by side when the Japanese had fallen.  “My oil pump was leaking and spraying oil onto the rear of my machine,” he said “And when I looked down at the rear wheel, Katayama glanced across too and ran straight off the road.” After that he and Graham had made it a free-for-all, but he had dropped behind on the third lap when his machine went onto one cylinder for several miles.

Third on the 50 cc Suzuki 'production racer', which Chris Vincent was to have ridden originally, was Belfast’s Tommy Robb who crossed the finishing line over 15 minutes behind Anscheidt. When Tommy was asked if he had any comments on the race, he grinned, “Yes, I’m sorry I’ve kept everyone hanging around so long for the garlanding ceremony.” All three machines finished in almost perfect condition with ample tyre tread and control adjustment left. The only obvious fault was Anscheidt’s leaky oil pump which had covered the rear of his machine with a film of lubricant.

Let's look at Stuart's background and some snippets from an interview with Simon Taylor for the Motor Sport Magazine,

Stuart Graham was born on the 9th January 1942 and started racing in 1961 on a Honda 125cc CB92 Benly, but it was not long before his natural talent saw him come under the guidance of well-known sponsor Bill Webster (Bill having sold his successful motorcycle business to the Kings of Oxford Group, he formed 'Italian Importers' in 1960 bringing the Aermacchi racing machines into the UK and providing machines to many of the top riders of the time, including Stuart Graham in his early days). 'Websterini' as he became affectionately known died of a heart attack at Mallory Park in 1963, whilst watching some of his proteges.

Armed with a 250cc Aermacchi Stuart soon achieved his first win at his local Prees Heath Short Circuit. Bill’s untimely death in early ’63 meant the loss of the then popular Italian single cylinder machines, but Stuart was soon back in the saddle, this time on AJS and Matchless machines provided by Jim Ball of Blackpool. Nineteen Sixty-four saw the son of 1949 500cc World Champion, Les Graham make his TT debut on the immaculately prepared British singles finishing 37th in the Junior and 19th in the Senior.

1965 provided a 17th placing on the AJS and his only T.T. D.N.F on the Matchless. Twelve months later he had been catapulted into the massive Honda works team of that year moving from the ‘leisurely paced’ British marques to the multi-cylinder magic of the Japanese 250cc 6 cylinders!

Despite his unfamiliarity with the works machines, the ‘pairing’ gave the Tokyo bosses an encouraging result, Stuart was runner up to his team mate Mike Hailwood. This is what Stuart had to say when interviewed by Simon Taylor: “For 1967 my Honda contract seemed a formality but in December word came from Japan that they were cutting back, concentrating on a single entry for Mike in the 500s, and boring out the 250 for Mike to run in the 350s. So, sorry Stuart, we won’t need you.”

This was a shock for the young Graham, who when asked "what did you decide to do" said “Well then Suzuki came knocking.” “I flew out to Japan in February, tried their 50cc and 125cc machines, saw the four-cylinder 250 they were developing, and signed the biggest contract I’d ever seen.” Stuart had agreed to ride their 125 and 50cc two strokes for that season, including the Diamond Jubilee TT. Again he did not disappoint, splitting the Yamaha’s of Read and Motohashi for 2nd place in the Lightweight 125cc TT on the RT67 twin  and winning the 50cc TT on the RK67 miniature twin cylinder Suzuki. Picture: This bike the RT67 is one of the rarest Suzuki race bikes in the world! Its estimated that only two or three are left in the world, one of which is in the Japan factory. Stuart rode this for three years with great success and later sold it to Barry Sheene who rode it from 1971. A parallel twin cylinder, water cooled, rotary valve, two stroke with three different gearbox choices – an eight, 10 and 12-speed – it took Sheene to second in the 1971 World Championship, finishing just behind legendary racer Angel Nieto. It’s fair to say that Sheene’s success on this actual bike put him ‘on the map’ and earned him the factory rides on the TR750. It is still in the Sheene collection.

Stuart was asked how he found the change in the bikes mechanics. "Well that meant adapting to two-strokes, which are completely different from four-strokes. It was a real culture shock. The first thing is, no engine braking. And because the oil is in the fuel, they don’t like to run on a closed throttle, or they can seize unexpectedly.

"This 125 would do 130mph, and the 50 did nearly 120mph, so they were quick. But the power bands were incredibly narrow. The 50cc bike had to be kept at all times between 17,000 and 17,500rpm. At 16,900rpm it had no power: at 17,600 it blew up. So you had 14 gears, and you had to watch the rev-counter all the time".

What about the bike you rode in the Ultra-Lightweight? "The 125 was a little easier: it only revved to 15,000rpm, and the power came in at 14,000, so you made do with just 10 gears. On both you were changing gear all the time: you didn’t use the clutch to change, but you kept your fingers on the clutch lever permanently in case it seized. The mixture lever was vital. On the Isle of Man you needed to richen it up at sea level, weaken it off up The Mountain, and vary it in between as the air pressure and temperature changed".

So you were busy? "Yes, I lapped the Island at an average of 86mph on the 50, and on the 125 I just missed my 100mph lap. I finished second on the 125 to Phil Read’s Yamaha Four - we still had twins, our four wasn’t ready and we couldn’t match the Yamaha for power - but I won the 50cc TT, getting my Isle of Man victory at last".

“and what can I say about the Isle of Man? Everybody has an emotional relationship with the place. You feel the mythology the moment you get there. When you drive into Douglas over the Fairy Bridge you have to say hello to the fairies, otherwise you’re going to have bad luck for the whole time you’re there". "Nobody takes the risk".

In the early 1970s Stuart began car racing in Saloon classes, retiring in 1980 to concentrate on his business interests including a Honda dealership. The following decade in 1986, Stuart again revived his racing in and saw Stuart take to the track driving touring cars, as well as winning the RAC Tourist Trophy and getting behind the wheel of a Lola T70 GT.  Stuart Graham Still appears at prestigious motorcycle racing events like the TTRA Classic TT Parade and has continued to appear in occasional historic car events, he will talk about his impressive motoring life whenever asked. Picture: Stuart Graham on Saturday October14th 2018 Goodwood

The Woolley 8 Speed YS-1 Yamaha.

Now to this little 'Bits' machine that the Editor finds stimulating. YAMAHA had not entered the 50cc racing class as the other Japanese manufacturers had and although they did produce a racer for the 1969 season (see the YAMAHA RF302 -50cc Racer 1969 page,) it did not compete on a race track.  But, in 1966 Brian Woolley created a Yamaha 50cc Racing Motorcycle.

Self-made motorcycle engineer Brian Woolley was one of Britain’s foremost two-stroke engine specialists and is perhaps best remembered for helping to develop the Greeves Silverstone production racer. The unique machine outlined here was created by Brian in collaboration with Bob Stevenson of Spondon Engineering and was first raced in 1966 by Trevor Burgess.

This 50cc machine is powered by a 1964 Yamaha YS-1 roadster engine modified by the addition of a water-cooling jacket in the interests of reliability. The tuning work consisted of the usual ‘porting job’, using Brian's experience of tuning the Starmaker, the fitting an 18mm Dell’Orto carburettor and replacing the rotary inlet valve’s compressed paper disc with a Tufnol part, manufactured by Brian, giving longer port openings and greater reliability.

Small capacity engines with relatively narrow power bands are best served by multi-speed gearboxes (Suzuki’s 50cc RK67 twin used 14 speeds!) and Woolley ingeniously doubled up the Yamaha’s four ratios by using an auxiliary transmission in the form of an American-built ‘Gomatic’ high/low unit, carried on the swinging arm’s left leg.

'Motor Cycling' explained the change procedure when its tester, Bruce Main-Smith, rode the Woolley Yamaha at the end of the 1966 season: ‘In reality, the rider starts in low and bottom, changes three times on the gearbox to reach top, then shifts into high. Total five. It is not “practical” to run through all eight ratios on the trot but the Gomatic’s half a ratio is useful on hills to get exactly the right cog.’

The modified YS-1 engine was installed in a purpose-built spine-type frame equipped with Suzuki front forks, Bianchi front brake and Itom rear hub. BMS found that the bike ‘steered impeccably and held the road like glue. The brakes were entirely adequate and the gear change light and neat.’

The best speed through the Silverstone Track speed trap when testing with Trevor Burgess in the saddle was, 72.58mph. This was using the 4 speed box with no overdrive. The speed equivalent to peak power at a r.p.m. of 12000 was : 1st gear=30mph, 2nd gear=50mph, 3rd gear=70mph, 4th gear=95mph.

Trevor Burgess was entered in the 50cc class in the 1967 Isle of Man TT. on this Yamaha and did the name proud. He finished ninth and received a Bronze Replica with a good time, 1 hr 48 min 36 sec, and a speed of 62.54 mph. He  bettered three of the Honda CR110 machines; being mounted on this home built special, entered by Two Stroke Improvements (Brian Woolley) and and affectionately known as 'Bits'. 

The John Lawley, 1963 Honda 50cc CR110

John's CR110 is one of 90 manufactured for the 1963 season of which it is reported that only 22 were exported to Europe. John's brother, Stan also had his own bike and the two brothers were often seen competing in the same race series. 

This Honda's history is not known prior to its acquisition by John, who raced the machine on most circuits in the mainland and was active in the Chiltern 50 Motorcycle Club and the Racing 50 Club which came later. The brothers took part in the 1966, 1967 and 1968 Isle of Man 50cc TTs and John's 7th place in the '68 race was his best ever TT result, netting him a coveted Silver Replica, while 10th in '67 was good enough for a Bronze. He also raced the Honda at the Ulster Grand Prix in 1969 and came in 9th and again in 1970. John kept this bike as up-to-date as possible with ant improvements that were available. The machine was also ridden in the Isle of Man TTRA 'Lap of Honour' parades in the 1980s and last ran in 1993. 

The Isle of Man 50cc TT Races