Competing for the First Time in the Isle of Man TT Race / 1958

Competing for the First Time in the Isle of Man TT Race / 1958

When they left the Tokyo Airport for the Isle of Man, Mr. Honda had seen them off, and he was there again to greet them when they returned to Tokyo. Apart from a reporter for a motorcycle magazine, no one from the press had come to cover their story. However, the morning edition of the Asahi Shimbun and the evening edition of the Tokyo Shimbun did carry stories, though small, reporting Honda's "team victory" in the sports pages on June 4. The Nihon Keizai Shimbun morning edition on June 7 introduced the story in its "Windows" (Mado) column. It remarked that Japanese riders had competed in a world-level motorcycle race against European riders with much more experience and won a team prize. It also had a photograph of the team's motorcycles. Then it went on to say:

"The motorcycles that so distinguished themselves were all Honda models. The manufacturer, Honda Motor Co., must be very pleased." The Ministry for International Trade and Industry calls this 'PR that is tailor-made for exports,' and praises its own manufacturing guidance."


The Honda RC142 as introduced in the British motorcycle magazine Motorcycling. The name "Honda Benly" in Japanese is printed upside down at the bottom.

Kawashima comments:

"I don't recall ever receiving any manufacturing guidance from the Ministry for International Trade and Industry," said Kawashima, laughing. "This was probably their way of starting a fire under the industry so it would manufacture products that could be exported. After all, this was a time when even the people in the press didn't understand the difference between racing machines and production models.

"From the second year on, things changed completely, and it was like the difference between night and day," he said. "Both in Japan and in other countries. For one thing, we received travel permission right away. At the London airport, the year before we had been a group of suspicious people carrying motorcycle parts in their luggage. Now, though, they said, 'Hey, Honda!' and just waved us through. The change in ordinary people's recognition of motor sports was also very apparent."

Honda employees' spirits rose higher. They truly felt that they had come close to the world's top class. Iida remembers:

"A special edition of the Honda Company News had the president's remarks: ‘I am extremely happy that we were able to achieve results like this. The team leader, the riders, and the mechanics all did splendidly. I want to thank all of you who created these machines. However, we still have to deal with the matter of first through fifth place,’" he said laughing. "These are great lines that you'd only hear from the Old Man. I loved them because they expressed exactly what he was feeling."

The average speed of the victorious M.V. Agusta was 119.17 km/h. Taniguchi's Honda RC142 reached 109.90 km/h. The lap time achieved by the top-class machines was in range of 8 min. 40 sec., while Honda's best time was 9 min. 22.2 sec.

Preparation for the next year began almost immediately.

"We decided that we would go for both the 125 cc and 250 cc classes next time," said Kawashima. "The Old Man was still looking in on the Engineering Design Room, but he couldn't issue orders on every small point any longer. After all, we were combat veterans now, so we were in a strong position. If we said, we have to do it this way, he would answer, 'Oh, I see; just so we get the power,' and he would back off. We acted as though we wanted him to leave it to us, and he always paid attention to the ideas of people who were in the front lines. Mr. Kume took up the 125 cc engine, Mr. Shinmura took the 250 cc 4-cylinder engine, and to these young guys we added a wizard of intake and exhaust theory named Shizuo Yagi. With this team, the 125 cc bike placed second, third and sixth, the second time we competed in the Isle of Man TT. The 250 cc took the fourth place, and besides the Isle of Man TT, it also participated in six other World Grand Prix races, coming very close to winning. In the third year, we competed fully in the World Grand Prix series, and in the Isle of Man TT. Both the 125 cc and the 250 cc machines swept first through third places. I heard that the Old Man said, 'You ask me why I'm so happy? It's because my dreams came true.' with his voice choking, and I felt on the verge of tears myself."

As the team leader, Kawashima had succeeded in realizing the dreams of Honda and all the Honda employees in the third year of his attempt, 1961. He remembers:

"Just when the company was going through its most difficult time, it allowed us young members to initiate this challenging undertaking. When they lacked money, they didn't tell us to stop. As for myself, I learned many things through my experience of this project and by being the team leader: judgment, decisiveness, foresight, how to draw out people's capabilities, how to make strongly individualistic people work together, sweeping strategies and small-scale tactics. The strength of the individual is limited. When an organized team goes to work, however, it has enormous power and can accomplish amazing things. You might see it as a kind of social management. When I became president, this was very useful. When things were difficult, I would remember those days, and then I could endure longer. I was able to hold onto the challenging spirit. In that sense, I feel that I was privileged in being given worthwhile work to do."

As Kiyoshi Kawashima returned to Japan from the first challenge for the Isle of Man TT Races, another challenger departed from the country, as though they were trading places. This was Kihachiro Kawashima, who left Japan on June 10, 1959. He was going to establish Honda's first overseas base, American Honda Motor Co.

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