MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
When no-one knew who Honda was
When Marc Márquez swept to Honda’s 700th Grand Prix victory on Sunday he did so at the head of the factory Repsol Honda team, probably the biggest outfit in the paddock, with every member trained and drilled to deal with every eventuality.
It is a somewhat different set-up to the brave little crew that turned up for the company’s first world championship race, the Isle of Man TT in June 1959.
In the 1950s the Isle of Man wasn’t on a different planet from Japan, but it may as well have been. This was a journey entirely into the unknown. Honda’s GP vanguard had no idea what to expect from the track, the people, the food, the culture or the country; after all, this was less than 15 years after the end of World War II. They were innocent of everything, so it was a journey that would be impossible to undertake today, unless you’re an Amazonian Indian.
Honda’s nine staff – including five riders, who did double duty as mechanics – flew to the Isle of Man from Tokyo, via Hong Kong, Bangkok, Calcutta, Karachi, Beirut, Frankfurt and London. They flew most of the way in a BOAC Comet, the world’s first commercial jetliner.
During the previous months they had spent their time learning how to eat with a knife and fork, how to wear a suit and tie, instead of traditional Japanese dress, and also mourning the death of a team-mate, who had died while doing stunts for a Japanese biker movie. All these men were members of the Honda Speed Club, a gang of keen young Honda employees who raced and did movie stunts on Hondas.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.