A  History of Classic Racing  50cc Motorcycles


The YAMAHA 50cc RF302 and Ferry Brouwer 


First some history taken from the YAMAHA Motor History pages. 1955-1957 

Competitive Racing in Japan and Promoting the Yamaha Name. 

At the end of May 1955, Nippon Gakki launched a bold strategy. The company would broadly highlight its presence in the motorcycle market by demonstrating the performance of the newly developed YA1, 125cc capacity, in the racing world. It was a new challenge.

At that time, motorcycle racing in Japan was more than just a motor sport; the races served as technological contests where companies could publicise the superiority of their products. The races were sponsored by the Japan Small Vehicle Manufacturers Association and backed by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry. Each company that took part was potentially risking its future because the results of the races were linked directly to sales.

The first All-Japan Road Race Championship was held over two days on November 3rd & 4th in 1962 on the new Suzuka Circuit, which had just been completed the previous year. The race was Japan’s first real road race using a track exclusively for that purpose.  This photograph is of Fumio Ito, riding swiftly in the 250 cc senior class of the first All-Japan Road Race Championship (November 1962)-The rider behind is Tommy Robb from Ireland, riding a Honda.

The motorcycle Yamaha used for the race was the 250 cc TD1, which was a commercially marketed racer based on the YDS1 with an even higher performance. Yamaha had begun exporting the TD1 at the beginning of 1962, and the bike had already strung together a series of victories in races around Europe. It was the forerunner of today’s TZ250. The decision was made to take on the opening race of the Suzuka Circuit with a TD1.

The YDS1 was a further development of the sporty performance of the YD-1, this new model mounted a 20 bhp (15 Kw) engine on a steel-pipe cradle frame to achieve unprecedented running performance.

Overall length × width × height: 1,990mm × 615mm × 935mm
Weight: 156kg
Engine type: Air-cooled, 2-stroke, in-line 2-cylinder, 246cm³
Maximum power output: 16.9kW (23.0 bhp) / 7,000r/min
Maximum torque: 21.0N・m (2.14kgf・m) / 6,000r/min

The YDS1R was Yamaha’s first production road race bike and based strongly on the factory example–and which also lead to the TD1.  The YDS1R was originally a kit intended to be fitted to a stock YDS1, the kit enabled the bike to produce 30hp with a top speed of just over 100mph but was also a serious race bike in terms of maintenance and tuning.  Yamaha later offered the YDS1R as a complete bike and followed it with a YDS2R before finally releasing the TD1.

This was Yamaha's first production road racer, mounting a 2-stroke, air-cooled, in-line 2-cylinder engine evolved from the modified YDS-1 racer on a newly developed double cradle frame. In December 1962, a version with equipment like headlights to make it street-legal was sold in Japan, distinguishing it from the TD-1A race machine that became available later. The faired racing machine (pictured) was the overseas spec model, while an unfaired model on display at Yamaha Japan is a replica of the one that entered in the 1st All Japan Road Race Championships at Suzuka Circuit in November 1962.

The finals of the All-Japan Road Race Championship were run in the rain. Yamaha had set its focus on the 250cc and 350cc classes in the novice category. There were 25 motorcycles entered in the 250 cc class, 15 from Yamaha and 10 from Honda. Despite the fact the course was slick from the rain, the TD1 took first and second places thanks to its outstanding manoeuvrability and the skill of the riders. In the 350 cc class as well, a TD1 with a bored out engine took the chequered flag. 

Fumio Ito, second place finish in the 250 cc class of the Isle of Man TT Race (1963)

Hiroshi Hasegawa, fourth place finish in the 250 cc class of the Isle of Man TT Race (1963)

Phil Read, the first Yamaha rider to become a world champion (1964)

Where do I start on the story that had such great potential at the beginning but again, due to the rules and regulations of the FIM, ended in the death of another 50cc piece of wonderful engineering?

In 1962 Yamaha engineer Takashi Matsui began a project for a 50cc racer and during that year put the YX66, on the drawing board. This bike, unfortunately remained experimental and was therefore never developed into a real racing machine. Also, it seems that it never had any records kept of its test runs or photographs of its design or track time.

However within the 50cc class in the UK there was always someone who wanted to develop a machine that could take on the mighty Honda CR110, brought out in 1962 for that years Isle of man 50cc TT and break the hold it had on the short circuit races on the mainland.  Brian Woolley, who had built and campaigned a Kreidler Florette in the early part of the decade decided to use a YAMAHA engine as the heart of his special to combat the Honda.  

Motorcycle engineer Brian was one of Britain’s foremost two-stroke engine specialists and is perhaps best remembered for helping to develop the Greeves Silverstone production racer. This unique 50cc machine was first raced in 1966 by Trevor Burgess. It was powered by a 1964 Yamaha YS-1 roadster engine modified by the addition of a water-cooling jacket in the interests of reliability.

Tuning work consisted of smoothing the gas flow and slightly modifying the port timing, fitting an 18mm Dell’Orto carburettor and replacing the rotary inlet valve’s compressed paper disc with a Tufnol part giving longer inlet opening, better inlet timing and improving reliability at higher engine revs. 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.

The "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, manufactured by Spondon Engineering, equipped with Suzuki front fork, 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.’

Completed in the summer of 1966, the Woolley Yamaha with Trevor Burgess aboard had won twice at Cadwell Park, once at Darley Moor and finished second in the Temple 100 in Ireland by the season’s end. It is the only machine to have beaten the Darley specialist, George Aston on his Honda CR110 on its home ground.

Motor Cycling estimated the Yamaha’s top speed to be the same as that of Honda’s over-the-counter 50cc racer. Both notched 72.55 mph through the Midland MCRC electronic timer.– not bad for a home-built ‘special’. But the important point is that Woolley's machine costs less to get to the line - and to keep running. It already had a performance to equal that of the CRII0's, and development had hardly begun.

Click to read more about the Woolley YAMAHA

With all this Hi-Tech development going on it seemed strange that the YAMAHA Motor Company had not looked further into the 50cc class in the same way as the other 3 main motorcycle manufacturers.  However, as they had the basis from the 1962 YX66 prototype and the engineer who created it, a new project could be initiated. So begins the start of the story concerning the YAMAHA RF302.

The RF302 at YAMAHA in Japan - before restoration 

Ferry  was once asked a Yamaha engineer "did YAMAHA ever make a GP 50cc motorcycle?"  "Yes, he replied, Yamaha did make a 50cc racer for the 1969 season but the withdrawal from GP Racing was a definitive one and there was no Yamaha Racing Team in the years 69/70/71/72". Picture: Ferry Brouwer at the end of the Sixties.

This reply was based on information Ferry had gleaned during the early days of working with YAMAHA. He had developed a friendship with an engineer named Minoru Tanaka san. Ferry sent me a copy of this letter with a comment as follows: "This is a copy of the letter from my friend engineer Minoru Tanaka who had worked in the Yamaha Racing Team.. He was present at most of the GP’s in 1968. As you can see from the letter he was ordered to work at a different place…………. That was the development of the 50cc RF302". This letter was written before Ferry had any evidence of a GP 50cc machine.

Ferry commented that "for unknown reasons Yamaha stopped the development (as they did in 1975 with the 350cc-4 cylinder) and it was never raced". As time went by the following story unfolded

It wasn’t until 1967 that the idea of a 50cc race bike was born again and work started in 1968. It was intended to compete in the 50cc GP bike through the 1969 season and with that in mind the RF302 was designed. It was intended for the rider to be Bill Ivy, as with his light weight and a 55 kg machine the power to weight ratio would be very good. He was also well versed in the handling of the 50cc racing motorcycle.

This was Yamaha Motor's first factory 50cc GP machine and was labelled the RF302.  Bill Ivy and no-one outside of the Yamaha factory knew about it then, and very few people are aware of it even today. The 4 units were built to comply with the new FIM rules being designed with a limiting six speed gearbox. To cut manufacturing costs the FIM had also limited the 50s to a single cylinder.

Unfortunately Bill died on the 12th July 1969 (aged 26) in Hohenstein-Ernstthal, East Germany. This was during the practice for the fifth GP race of the series, on the Sachsenring, his JAWA motorcycle's engine seized due to the breaking up of the lower left hand connecting rod cage bearing and he was thrown from the bike. Bill Ivy died from injuries received due to the impact with a fence post.

With the loss of Bill Ivy, who was well revered by the Japanese and other throughout the world, Yamaha gave up participating in 50cc racing and did in fact decide to withdraw from the GP scene. Picture: A postage Stamp from the YEMAN

The RF302 liquid-cooled 2-stroke, single-cylinder engine with 6-speed transmission pumped out 15bhp at 15,200 rpm and gave the machine a top speed approaching 170 km/h from its initial development and was improved with slight changes to 17bhp at 17,000 rpm. However, due to the withdrawal of Yamaha's factory teams from the World GP, the RF302 was stored (parts of the chassis were used in Hideo Kanaya's HT1 90cc racing bike) and so this machine would never compete in a single race.

Ferry first knew about the 50cc racing bike when he was at Yamaha HQ in 1997 (his very good friend, Tanaka san had died on the (1st August 1990) and engineer Iio san took him to the compound where all racing machines (the ones which were saved from destruction) were kept. Ferry saw the machines, all under covers, and walking along he saw a “dip” (a lower machine in the line and he asked if he could lift the cover, Iio san said there would be “no problem” and there it stood the RF302 one of the 4 that were built, 3 of these were destroyed or broken down and the parts used for other machines such as the YZ636 HT1. Picture: 90cc YZ363-HT1

 Yamaha YZ636-HT1 90cc Racer

 HT1 Moto Cross Engine

Yamaha YZ636-HT1 90cc Racer

 Motohashi No.18 on a YZ636-HT1 racer

Kanaya and the YZ636-HT1

Suzuka 1971,

The last picture is the start of the Suzuka 1971 race, a combined 90cc and 125cc Japanese Championship race. Front row and all 4 machines are Yamaha's. Left is the HT1 YZ636 90cc and then two YZ623A 125cc and farthest left (this time No.50) YZ623B 125cc Akiyasu Motohashi. The difference can be very clearly seen.

It was during this trip to Japan that Iio san told Ferry that a restoration of the RF302 motorcycle was in the planning stage but, if completed, it would not be ready to send over for the Centennial Classic TT in 1998. This was a disappointment but as Ferry always looked forward “there will be another time”.

During 1999, Yamaha did complete the restoration of the RF302 but it was kept well away from the media and general public. When conversing with Ferry on this he said that "In 2000 I helped to organise the Classic Star Parade at Assen and I asked Yamaha if they would be willing to support the event by sending over the RF302.. They agreed and Engineer Takashi Matsui san (Yamaha Racing Team from 1960 – 1972, team-leader of many machine projects and my very good friend), rider Akiyasu Motohashi san also came over as well. 

The RF302 at YAMAHA in Japan before restoration

Assen Classic Star Parade 2000 

Takashi Matsui san.  Akiyasu Motohashi san.  Kneeling is Ferry Brouwer and his good friend Chris Groeneweg.

Akiyasu Motohashi san: Born October 1939. In the same cohort as Fumio Ito and Kunimitsu Takahashi. A late bloomer, he began amateur racing at age 21, and in 1962 was signed to Yamaha. Made a brilliant start by winning the Novice 250cc preliminaries of the first All Japan Road Race Championship (Suzuka Circuit) held in autumn of that year (DNF in finals). 

From 1964, won numerous victories in the Singapore GP, Malaysian GP and international races in other parts of Asia. And on the World GP scene, made spot entries in the Isle of Man TT with its illustrious history and tradition, and the Dutch TT, and in GP racing in his native Japan.

Achieved three podium finishes with a third place in the 125cc class of the 1966 Japan competition, a third placement in the 125cc class on the Isle of Man in 1967, and a second in the 250cc class in Japan in 1967. Until he finally retired from racing in 1977, he also participated in major races in Japan and Asia while serving as a factory machine development rider. During his time he devoted considerable energy to the development of successors like Hideo Kanaya, Ikujiro Takai and Tadahiko Taira. Picture: Akiyasu Motohashi-Yamaha, Stuart Graham-Suzuki-Phil Read=Yamaha 1967 Ultra Lightweight TT.

The Racing motorcycles were set up at the Assen Classic Star Parade 2000, but covered to maintain an interest as to what was underneath. When it was the turn of the RF302 motorcycle it caused some considerable surprise.

After the event Ferry had a discussion with Yamaha and explained that he wanted to make a replica of the RF302. They agreed and said that he could keep the machine at his home for a few months, allowing him to measure everything and take photos. After this pre-work for the project was done Ferry, along with his project friends, shipped the machine back to Japan where it is displayed at Yamaha Communication Plaza. The RF302 has never been used again.

A replica of the RF302 has now been built by Ferry Brouwer (Yamaha Classic Racing Team) with the collaboration of Takasaki Matsui san and (Yamaha). We will cover this story in the FB RF302 page coming later. From this point on and as Ferry was involved with other classes of the Yamaha racing motorcycles, he decided to start the Yamaha Classic Racing Team (see below). This team ran until 2013,

The Restoration of the YAMAHA RF302.

In looking at the re-birth of this particular bike it is fair to note that it has had a very charmed life considering the standard approach applied to many of the racing machines created in this period. To those that had ceased their useful life or been discarded in the initial development, the practice by the big "4", was to scrap/ destroy the bike and most of the supporting documentation. I have already mentioned that the YX66, 50cc racer never saw the light of day and that all of the physical bike and documentation was destroyed. This should have happened to the RF302 when it was created and then shelved.

Fortunately for us, this was not the case with the RF302 and so some history can be applied to it. The 2 pictures below are, I believe, the only drawings that still exist of the original RF302.  If there are any Model Makers out there that might wish to recreate this motorcycle, then apart from the newer drawings of the replica, later in the page, these are all I have.

During the restoration it was of great befit to have Yamaha engineer Takashi Matsui san on hand. He was the designer of the RF302 suspension and also the 125cc and 250cc 4-cylinder chassis. He also designed the Yamaha OW20 500 4-cylinder engine from 1973. Later in the creation of the replica FB RF302 Matsui san helped Ferry Brouwer with a lot of technical information.

These photographs were taken, at the factory, from June 1986 to September 1986 as the RF302 was dismantled for restoration. They show the intricate design of the engine and yet YAMAHA's approach to severe weight saving, needed to bring a 50cc racer to its lowest start line weight.

This is a crop of the first image above showing the state of the engine when taken out of storage for its restoration The casings are discoloured with oxide and a good session of vapour blast will be required. The photograph to the right shows a much cleaner engine and parts, assembled and ready for final fettling prior to going back into the frame.

Ferry Brouwer is from the Netherlands (a country which has a love relationship with the 50cc motorcycle) and having worked for and with the YAMAHA racing department for many years and also having a keen interest in the 50cc class, was involved in the restoration of the RF302. He has collected a remarkable album of photographs of the bike and of the replica he built. More about the Replica later.

Ferry has agreed for me to use these photographs in the building of this page. Please note that the copyright belongs to Ferry Brouwer and any copying or other usage must be through his permission. I have tried to split these into sub-groups to make reading the page a smoother ride. We will start with the external components of the engine.

The following six pictures show the left side of the engine which supports induction through a disc valve and also shows the clutch mechanism. The carburettor is a MIKUNI VM28SC 28mm unit. The red pipe in picture No.4 is the Autolube to the main bearing.

YAMAHA AUTOLUBE. Conventional 2-stroke engines of the period, Itom, Minarelli, Guazzoni, etc. were lubricated by an oil premix in the petrol tank. The Autolube system furnishes an automatic, separate lubrication system, which comprises of the oil being held in a Separate oil tank which is automatically regulated by an oil pump and fed to the engine according to engine speed and load.

The oil pump is driven by the engine through a reduction gear, and is connected to the carburettor throttle cable, which in turn is controlled by the throttle twist grip. The oil pump automatically regulates the volume of lubricating oil, which is adjustable, according to engine speed and throttle valve opening, thus pumping the precise amount of oil for engine lubrication under any operating condition.

The next gallery covers the Autolube oiling system and Clutch on the right side of the bike. The clutch operating mechanism is attached to the left side of the engine alongside the carburettor (see image 6 above). The actuating rod runs through the centre of the gearbox layshaft and is shown below. As you can see the clutch is of a size that was more than capable of handling the power of the 50cc engine. Being a dry clutch there was less power lost through the drag of oil in an oil bath approach.

Notice that most of the pictures of the clutch and Autolube show the units when they were first removed from storage and dismantled. General look is dull and in need of a clean and the lock wire approach is simple but adequate, also there is old oil in the delivery tubes. The stared pictures show the same units after restoration with a much tidier look to the lock wire and no oil in the system. 

The water pump, forming an integral part of the crankcase, is driven directly off a shaft at the rear of the engine unlike some racing machines of the period that used an electrical pump to reduce bhp loss. The stared picture of the pump shows the route the water pipes have to take to form the circuit. one has to pass over the top of the ignition rotor housing. The picture of the pump and ignition housing has been taken from a photograph in the album of the Ferry Brouwer Replica FB-RF302. This is to give clarity of the engines configuration.

The exhaust system shown in the pictures is fairly rudimentary and was cobbled together as a point from which to start  the tuning of the expansion chamber. As this project never saw a race track no further work was done to develop its potential.

The exhaust system shown in the pictures is fairly rudimentary and was cobbled together as a point from which to start the tuning of the expansion chamber. As this project never saw a race track no further work was done to develop its potential.

The next gallery covers the frame and running gear. There are no pictures of the original frame as a single shot but the first picture in the following gallery is a shot of the FB RF302 Replica.

The Fully Assembled Original RF302 Motorcycle

Some of the Personalities Involved

Takashi Matsui san (engineer),
Ferry Brouwer, 
Akiyasu Motohashi san (rider),

Ferry Brouwer on the RF302. One spin of the back wheel and the bike would start.

The only time this machine, the RF302, was outside Japan was during the 2000 Classic Star Parade at Assen where Akiyasu Motohashi paraded it. On the bike Engineer Designer Takashi

Jos Schurgers on the 50cc RF302

Year 2000 at the ASSEN circuit Holland. The Yamaha 50cc RF302 with Akiyasu Motohashi

Year 2000 during the ASSEN Parade. The Yamaha 50cc RF302 with Akiyasu Motohashi

The Yamaha Classic Racing Team (2008 )

Recognition for the Yamaha Classic Racing Team (2008 ):

Yamaha Motor Europe NV has officially announced its support for the Yamaha Classic Racing Team, founded and managed by former Yamaha GP mechanic Ferry Brouwer (Born: 9 May 1949). In addition to a financial element, the support will include technical as well as promotional aspects.

The Classic Racing Team (YCRT), born out of a passion for racing heritage is aimed at conserving Yamaha's history from their early golden years of road racing. This truly magnificent period started in the sixties and continued into the seventies. Ferry Brouwer, now 72 yrs old has been into racing since he was 6 years being introduced to it by his father. He's been a big fan of the Yamaha road racing two-strokes ever since, and worked as a Yamaha factory mechanic from 1968 to 1973 for riders such as Jarno Saarinen, Phil Read, Chas. Mortimer and Tepi Lansivuori.

Michelle Duff

YAMAHA 1968 RD05 four-cylinder 250cc

In 1998 Ferry was the driving force behind the "Assen Centennial TT", bringing together many famous former GP stars to ride their restored racers.

Ferry Brouwer commented, "1973 was the last time I worked with Yamaha as mechanic for Jarno Saarinen on the official factory team. Exactly 35 years later I am so happy to be officially associated with Yamaha again. But not just me; through YCRT guys like Rod Gould, Chas Mortimer, Michelle Duff are also back with Yamaha. The official support from Yamaha is recognition of what we do, but above all recognition from Yamaha to and for Yamaha's own history. 

Once again Yamaha is leading the way as a Japanese manufacturer they definitely live and act by their own slogan 'Touching your Heart' as an enormous amount of people's hearts will be touched by seeing those classic machines riding again. We wish to be a source of inspiration for others carrying the past into the future." 

Ferry Brouwer has 14 classic Yamaha machines at his disposal. These are either completely original or restored bikes used in World Championship events, including the 1979 YZR500 OW45 bike ridden by Kenny Roberts Sr. The Yamaha Classic Racing Team itself comprises of the likes of Dieter Braun, Svend Andersson, Michelle Duff, Rodney Gould and Chas Mortimer. Guest appearances at events undertaken by the team will also feature Steve Baker, Christian Sarron, Luca Cadalora and Giacomo Agostini, widely regarded as the greatest rider of all time.


Another development whilst associated with YAMAHA

In 1973 I was working for Jarno Saarinen as a mechanic, and, something I do not like to recall,  he lost his life because part of his face was ripped off in a crash. Subconsciously I must have thought ‘I want to do something for safety in the future.’ At the time I didn’t think about focussing on helmets, but then in 1980, when I was jobless, I thought ‘what am I going to do?’ I was intrigued by the Arai logo, I saw it in a Japanese magazines and thought ‘there’s something behind this logo.’ So, I took my life savings and went to Japan to visit Mr Arai. At the time he wasn’t interested in Europe, so he sent me home. Picture: The design of Michelle Duff's Arai helmet for 2007

It’s important to notice that Hirotake Arai’s intention was not to start another commercial business, but to create helmets that were able to protect his fellow riders. It is this drive that is still within the Arai company to this very day.

I carried on sending him testing reports for helmets available in Europe. Then in 1982 he called me back and said ‘let’s start doing Arai in Europe, but I’m not giving you any money or anything.’ I had to do it all by myself, so I set to work trying to develop an image. Picture: The 2007 edition of the Isle of Man TT races helmet.

As the wheels touched down at Schiphol Airport I thought, "I must create an image based around Utopia, riders must base their beliefs around Utopia." so ultimately, pornography is something I based the Arai ideal around. I think every man if he’s honest will say when he’s engrossed in a magazine or a porno film, his belief is that he’s in the picture or the movie. That is the philosophy that I used with the Arai brand, to try and make them helmet porn".

Everybody focuses on racers but they all go the same way, you can’t say the impact speeds are higher because people achieve exactly the same speeds on the road. It’s the road accidents that intrigue me the most, and in the ‘80s I started paying real attention to road riders. you get so many more variables with accidents on the road, and as a technical man it’s these that are really interesting. I stopped going to the races and began visiting biker meets. Picture: Ferry being interviewed for the Visordown web page. This picture and some text is from this site. 

I met a British guy, he had been hit by a small van in the UK. The driver of the van didn’t realise he had hit a biker and drove for over two hundred metres with the rider being dragged along by his head. The accident completely wore away the sides of the helmet, smashed the chin bar off and destroyed the helmet. The man presented us with the helmet at the NEC show. Funnily enough, most of the letters of thanks I get for saving a rider come from the UK.

If you could give people one tip to make the most of their helmet, what would it be?                          Treat your helmet more carefully than your wife!

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