The First "Racing Laboratory on Wheels" Ran in the Mount Asama Volcano Race / 1955

The First "Racing Laboratory on Wheels" Ran in the Mount Asama Volcano Race / 1955

Kawashima also said:

"In the second Asama race, too, we were thoroughly beaten again by Yamaha in the 125 cc and 250 cc classes. We won in the 350 cc class, but Yamaha hadn't entered in this class. We only won in the 125 cc and 250 cc class races after we returned from our first entry in the Isle of Man TT competition four years later, in 1959."

From the second race on, the Asama event was held on a specially constructed course for which the motorcycle manufacturers had shared the construction expense. Honda by then had already become Japan's top manufacturer, and it contributed the largest amount toward building the course. It was called a road race course, but all we had done was level some rough land at the foot of Mt. Asama. The course was left as dirt mixed with fine volcanic debris, and it remained unpaved.

As Kimio Shinmura says:

"This was at the time of the second race. I can still remember it vividly now. The sun was starting to go down, and the Old Man was sitting on top of an embankment where the pampas plumes were shining white in the sunlight. The leading Yamaha bike came zooming up and crossed the finish line right before our eyes. I was with Mr. Kume, watching from the side, and the Old Man wasn't angry at all. He just said, lightly, 'There's no use crying over spilt milk.' He seemed forlorn, and I felt sorry for him."

Shinmura was later to design engines for such machines as the Benly C90, the 250 cc Isle of Man TT racer, and the N360.

"But you know, it's better not to go racing with the Old Man," he added. "If you do, you're bound to lose. The reason is that just before the start of the race, he would fiddle with your machine. It'll probably be good to do this, you think, but then he doesn't stop. He just can't quit," he said laughing. "He realized this himself, so when we were at the Isle of Man and the World Grand Prix, he hardly came around the machines at all. We finally got our revenge on Yamaha at the third Asama race. That time, however, not only did Yamaha not enter the race in the 125 cc class, but on top of that, our winner wasn't the works machine that had come back from the Isle of Man, but a production Benly CB92 Super Sports ridden by an amateur, Moto Kitano. Uncommonly enough, Mr. Fujisawa was there, too, and he went over to the Old Man, who was looking a little out of sorts, and said to him, 'Well, it's three cheers for the production that you let take the honors. This will be excellent for business. Thank you so much.' The Old Man was speechless," he said, laughing. "And actually, that did make the CB92 a lot more popular."

In the 250-cc race that followed, Honda's first in-line 4-cylinder machine, the RC160, appeared on the scene. The powerful "Honda sound" of its 14,000 rpm engine astonished the spectators, and this motorcycle swept first through third places. Honda finally had a smile back on his face.

The economy started out in a slump in 1955, but started to improve rapidly from the autumn. Business conditions were the best they had ever been since the founding of the country, so people called it the "Jimmu Upturn" after the first emperor of Japan.

In the automobile industry, the first generation Toyopet Crown made its appearance, and Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo K.K., now known as Sony, put the first transistor radio on sale and so became the talk of the town.

Honda, having ridden out of its difficulties, again put its throttle wide open.

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