As many people requested, hereby finally the more or less complete story of Fumio Ito, the Japanese rider who gave Yamaha its first World Championship points and first GP win.
With great thanks to Takashi Matsui, retired Yamaha race engineer, who gave most of the information. Full copyright by classicyams.com website.
Fumio Ito was born on October 10th, 1939 in Ota-ku, Tokyo, Japan.
His father was Noboru Ito, a rather well-known music composer.
In 1955, when Fumio Ito was only 16 years old, he debuted in the very first Asama race in October.
With a “Lilac” (Marusyo Motor Co.), he entered the light weight 250 cc class and that resulted in an outright win!
At the end of that year, in December, he joined Yamaha Motor Company as a test rider.
In 1956 he participated at the “4th Mount Fuji Hill Climbing” race in July.
His machine was a Yamaha YC-1 175 cc racer, but he had to retire with electrical problems.
Fumio Ito quit Yamaha soon thereafter in September 1956.
He then decided to register himself as a “gambling” rider and raced for a full seven months. I do not know where this word was coming from but given Japan’s passion for betting it is probable that these riders raced in a type of licensed gambling event.
In 1957 the second “Asama Volcanic Race” was held in October and Fumio Ito participated again on a Works Yamaha YD 250 cc racer in the light weight class. He took the lead after 2 laps and kept that position for a further 6 laps but had to retire with engine trouble unfortunately.
Together with Fumio Ito also Masuko, Sunako and Shimoyoshi raced here so it is safe to assume that Yamaha indeed built 5 racers (1 spare), which were later converted to Catalina racers.
In 1958 he participated in the now famous “Catalina GP” in California, USA and scored Yamaha’s first success outside Japan with a 6th place overall on a Motocross version of the YD250 Asama racer.
Back home in Japan he ran a BMW R69 at the “All Japan Motorcycle Clubman Race” on the Asama Course in August, which resulted also in a 6th place.
The following year (1959) he rode a BMW R50 at the “3rd Asama Volcanic Race” and won the 500 cc Senior Class.
At that time Fumio Ito was working for Balcom Trading Comp. and got financial back-up from the general manager, Mr. Linner.
In 1960 Fumio Ito participated with a BMW at the world GP 500 cc.
Fumio Ito, BMW 1960
He scored a 6th place at the French GP, a 10th place at the Dutch T.T. and a 10th place at the Belgian GP. Anyway, his 1 point in France gave him the 15th place at the end of the 1960 Season (and he was the highest placed BMW!).
During the “2nd All Japan Motocross Race”, at Mount Fuji Asagiri Highland, Fumio Ito won the race with a BMW.
As a very promising rider, Fumio Ito was offered a work contract with Yamaha Motor Company at the end of that year (1960)
1961 started well for Fumio Ito, as in February he scored an 8th place with the Yamaha TD1 prototype during the light weight 250 cc class in Daytona, USA.
Pitiful he had to retire from the 125 cc class during the French G.P. in May, while riding the Yamaha RA41. But consolidation came from the 250 cc class, where Fumio Ito finished in 8th place with his newly developed RD48 racer.
A month later his success turned during the Isle of Man T.T. races, where Fumio Ito came home 11th in the 125 cc “ultra light weight” (as it was called in the U.K.) class with the RA41 and scored an excellent 6th place in the 250 cc light weight class with the RD48.
The following race was the famous Dutch T.T. at the Assen circuit.
Here Fumio Ito scored a 10th place with his 125 cc bike and a 6th place with the 250 cc machine.
In the Belgian G.P. a week later, in July, on the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit Fumio Ito failed to finish in the 125 cc class, but gained another excellent 5th place with his 250 cc bike.
In October the Argentinian G.P. was held and also here Fumio Ito did well with his 250 cc machine. He managed to finish 4th place.
In the overall world ranking for 1961 he had 9th place.
In 1962 Yamaha did not participate in the G.P.’s.
But in November of that year Fumio Ito could try the newly developed RD56 250 cc twin cylinder racer during the “First Suzuka All Japan Road Race”.
The new machine was very promising with a 3rd place.
Fumio Ito wins at Daytona, 1963
The long-awaited success came in the “Daytona G.P.” in February 1963, where Fumio Ito won the 250 cc light weight class with the RD56.
Fumio Ito, Daytona 1963
In that year he also debuted as a singer for the “Polydor” record company. He made an E.P. record with on the A side the song “The girl in pigtails with a red ribbon” and on the “B” side “A foghorn is calling me”.
Immediately thereafter Fumio scored another win with the Yamaha RD56 at the 250 cc class during the Malaysian G.P. in April. This win was also good for the 2nd place in the Open class.
In June, during the T.T. races on the Isle of Man he scored a 2nd place with the RD56.
At the Dutch T.T., end of June, this was followed by another 2nd place on the now very reliable RD56 250 cc racer.
The Belgian G.P. brought the first European Victory, the long deserved win in the 250 cc class for Fumio Ito and Yamaha Motor Company.
The season ended for Fumio Ito with another 2nd place at the Japanese G.P. in November, again with the RD56.
His overall result for the season 1963 was therefore an excellent 3rd place. Furthermore his teammate Yoshikazu Sunako was 7th overall, ahead of “newcome” Phil Read who was 10th.
It was really a pity for Fumio Ito to retire the following year during the U.S. G.P. with the RD56 in February 1964, as he had won the previous year.
In Malaysia during the G.P. in April he had his last win on the Yamaha RD56 in the 250 cc class. He also rode the same bike in the following “Open” class, but then he had to retire because of a crash.
Thereafter he went to the Isle of Man T.T. races but never made it to the start line and went back to Japan.
Back in Japan he did some testing and his last race was the Japanese G.P. Unfortunately he had to retire in both the 125 cc and 250 cc class.
After that he did some test driving for “Prince Motor Comp.”
In February 1965 Fumio Ito was arrested for illegal pistol possession.
He married in July 1967.
In 1967 he visited the USA in August and quite certainly never returned to Japan.
Now there are some more white spots in the remaining story.
He participated in car racing in California and worked there as a taxidriver.
For some time he stayed in Hawaii, where he was involved in some sort of “Tourist” business.
Coming back he went to Florida, where he worked for a maintenance company (real estate).
During the last few years (1990), he was the owner of a Japanese Restaurant in Orlando.
In 1991 Fumio Ito, Yamaha’s first G.P. winner, died in Florida, USA.