MotoGP: Yamaha pay tribute to 500 Grand Prix wins

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Some of their past legends of Grand Prix racing have paid tribute to Yamaha after Maverick Viñales secured the factory their 500th victory in the sport on Sunday with his incredible victory over teammate Valentino Rossi at the French Grand Prix in Le Mans.

Yamaha secured victories in the 125cc (47 wins), 250cc (165 wins), 350cc (63 wins), 500cc (120 wins), and MotoGP class (105 wins), adding up to 500 Grand Prix wins in total, according to FIM statistics.

Phil Read (39 wins)

“My first invitation by Yamaha to Japan was very exciting and it was amazing for me to race in the first Suzuka GP. When I returned to Yamaha’s base at Hamamatsu after this event to recover from days of testing and the race, I was later invited to ride their factory bikes in the 1964 season, but only five GP’s would be factory supported.

“The early years weren‘t easy and I feel that, with more support, I would have had much more to give to Yamaha, but I am very happy to have contributed to gaining Yamaha’s 500th GP win thanks to my victories in the 125 and 250 classes. Yamaha GP team became the “Happy Team” in later years, especially now, as Yamaha Motor Racing have become a very organised team under the management of Lin Jarvis and his admin team.”

Wayne Rainey (24 wins)

“The highlights of my time with Yamaha are obviously my three World Championships. I raced six years of Grand Prix with them and I was on the podium 64 times in just over 80 races so we had a lot of success together. Yamaha‘s DNA is racing. I won 24 races with Yamaha and I can say that every time I raced with them they were all in. We squeezed every bit of performance out of the bike, out of myself and out of the team. Yamaha was as committed to the project as I was. We couldn‘t have accomplished all that we did without each other. We were a great team.

“ Yamaha has been an easy fit for me because they are a great company and I‘ve always felt welcome there. When I look at my link of the chain that is Yamaha‘s 500 wins, I know what I contributed to it and it‘s amazing to think that Yamaha has been there for all 500 of those. It‘s very special for me to be a part of that, because their commitment was to win and to give myself and all these other riders the opportunity to win. Being a Grand Prix winner is the ultimate for a road racer and to have 500 of those is amazing. I‘m very honoured to be a part of that.”

Kenny Roberts Senior (24 wins)

“In 1978 when I didn’t ride for the factory, I won the World Championship and then the Japanese manufacturer said: ‘No, he is riding for me!’ So I went to Japan in February, but didn’t sign a contract immediately. I went out and tested, broke my back, ruptured my spleen, broke my left collarbone and they didn’t know at the time whether I would live or ever race again. I lay in hospital for three weeks with tubes everywhere and I thought they were not going to sign the contract with me, but Mr. Hada, who was the head of all racing and legendary at the time, walked in the hospital one day and said ‘Come on, son, we have a contract to sign!’. That’s Yamaha, it’s a big Japanese family.

“The work ethic of the Yamaha employees, which I noticed being an American, was awesome. Yamaha is the most western thinking company in the motorcycle business and that’s why they are the most winning motorcycle company in the motorcycle business. I will always consider myself part of the Yamaha family, it was one of the best times of my life and I’m still enjoying it. As far as contributing to the races, I think that’s probably secondary to being part of the Yamaha family, but I’m very grateful to be mentioned with the current stars and all the people before me. They are all great racers, it’s a big honour for me, I can‘t thank Yamaha enough.”


Simon Patterson

By Simon Patterson

MotoGP and road racing reporter, photographer, videographer