Fumio Ito did not ascend to the heights of being an FIM world champion but he takes rightful pride of place in the gallery of Yamaha’s racing heroes for being the first to demonstrate the potential of the factory’s machinery on the international stage. It was Ito who captured Yamaha’s very first Grand Prix winner’s garland by leading home his team-mate, Yoshikazu Sunako, on 250cc RD56 motorcycles at the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps in 1963 – becoming just the third Japanese victor of an FIM Grand Prix World Championship event.
Ito was nineteen years old when he travelled to the USA in 1958 to race for Yamaha in the Catalina GP and turned plenty of heads by scoring 6th position. It was the first time Yamaha motorcycles had been introduced to an international audience and the positive performance and high levels of interest prompted the Hamamatsu factory to create a special racing development division in 1959. Two years later and Yamaha were ready for World Grand Prix and began their history in the FIM series with participation at the French round at Clermont-Ferrand. Ito would earn 9th overall in the 250cc class in 1961. Yamaha improved their bikes through a season away from the sport in 1962 and came back in fine form in ’63 when Ito won the 250cc class at Daytona (USA) and then achieved his milestone through the long and fast streets of that famous track in Belgium.
By many believed to have the potential to battle for the ’64 world crown in the 250 class, sadly Ito’s GP career was curtailed after a pre-season crash that year. He spent his later years living in the USA until passing away in 1991 at the age of 52.