Honda marks Isle of Man anniversary

50 years of racing history

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Apr. 22, 2009
Honda is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its racing programs by going back to where it all began, at the Isle of Man TT.

Honda made its debut on the international racing stage in the 1959 Isle of Man TT, racing five RC142 motorcycles, with four Japanese riders, Naomi Taniguchi, Giichi Suzuki, Junzo Suzuki, Teisuke Tanaka, and an American, Bill Hunt. The Honda contingent, led by Taniguchi, finished sixth, seventh, eighth and 11th, with one DNF.

The original 1959 team, from left to right: Junzo Suzuki (rider), Giichi Suzuki (rider), Kiyoshi Kawashima (team leader), Naomi Taniguchi (rider), Teisuke Tanaka (rider), Bill Hunt (rider), H Sekiguchi (mechanic) and S Hirota (mechanic).

Fast forward 50 years to the HM Plant Honda team as it prepares for the 2009 Isle of Man TT, featuring 14-time TT winner John McGuinness.

“The HM Plant Honda team is pleased to be so involved with Honda’s 50th anniversary celebrations on the Isle of Man this year and we feel we are taking one of the strongest teams we have ever entered, in terms of both riders and machinery, in all classes,” says Neil Tuxworth, head of Honda (U.K.) Racing. “Our aim is to try and win in every class and we’ll be putting all our efforts and the full race team behind our riders to ensure we are as competitive as possible on track and to try and add to Honda’s incredible TT victories from the last fifty years.”

Honda is commemorating its 50th anniversary by releasing a previously unpublished image of the original 1959 team, and a new re-enactment photo with members of the modern team striking the same poses at the exact same location as the original.

Ther 2009 HM Plant Honda team, from left to right: Nick Crowe (sidecar rider), Mark Cox (sidecar passenger), Neil Tuxworth (Head of Honda (UK) Racing), John McGuinness (rider), Steve Plater (rider), Guy Martin (Hydrex Honda rider), Havier Beltran (team manager), Julian Boland (mechanic).

The Isle of Man Post Office is also marking the anniversary by issuing a set of commemorative stamps. Entering circulation on May 11, the series will feature legendary Honda riders representing different decades of racing: Naomi Taniguchi (1950s), Mike Hailwood (1960s), Alex George (1970s), Joey Dunlop (1980s), Steve Hislop (1990s) and McGuinness (2000s). The set of six stamps will retail for 4.50 pounds.

The Treasury of the Isle of Man will also recognize the anniversary with a new 50 pence coin featuring McGuinness riding a Honda CBR1000RR from the 2007 race.

During the May 30 – June 12 2009 Isle of Man TT, the Manx Museum will open a new exhibition titled “Honda: The Golden Age 1959-1967”. The exhibition ill feature early Honda memorabilia, film highlights and historic motorcycles.

Honda has also invited special guests such as Taniguchi, the 1959 team’s translator, Keiko Carran, and former Honda racing stars Phillip McCallen and Ron Haslam to attend the 2009 TT. 

“Going to the TT is always exciting for racing fans and for Honda, as our relationship with the Island is something very special,” says Steve Martindale, general manager for Honda (U.K.). “The exciting racing which we’re sure to see from the HM Plant Honda team, combined with Honda’s celebratory activities is certain to make this year an exceptional anniversary of world championship racing for Honda. We would like to thank the Isle of Man Government especially, for their fantastic recognition of this significant year for Honda and the activities they have organized to help commemorate the occasion.”