Mitsuo Ito, The Only Japanese Rider To Win At The Treacherous Isle Of Man TT, Has Passed Away At 82
Born on the first day of 1937, Ito san grew up to become a lifelong Suzuki employee and started racing the marque’s motorcycles, eventually making his Grand Prix debut in 1961. During his distinguished racing career, he finished fifth in the 50cc world championship four times consecutively between 1962 and 1965 with his final coming at the Japanese Grand Prix in 1967. The highlight of his career though was winning the Ultra-Lightweight TT on his Suzuki RK67 in 1963, becoming the first and only Japanese rider to do so around the arduous 37.73-mile course.
Ito san returned to the course in 2008, 45-years after that momentous win to celebrate his achievements. Suzuki GB director, Paul de Lusignan commented, “It was an absolute pleasure to know and spend time with Ito san. He had time for everybody and made an effort to get to know and speak with dealers and staff alike during his visits to Suzuki GB and on our trip to the Isle of Man together in 2008. He was also very warm and welcoming when I had the pleasure of visiting his home in Japan. He was very highly thought of by everyone at Suzuki, and also members of the media throughout the years who had the good fortune to meet and work with him. All of our thoughts are with his friends and family at this time.”
Once Ito san retired from competitive racing he helped design Suzuki’s Ryuyo test track, which became the location where all Suzuki machines are tested to this day. He also continued to work on Suzuki’s racing activities including a short stint in car racing and was inducted into the Motorcycle Federation of Japan (MFJ) Hall of Fame last December for that impressive win at the 1963 Isle of Man TT.
Images courtesy of Suzuki