Valentino Rossi who gave Honda its 500th Grand Prix win at Suzuka in 2001 came very close to also giving Yamaha its 500th Grand Prix success, but had to give best to his younger teammate Maverick Vinales who was first past the chequered flag to win this year’s French MotoGP at the Le Mans Bugatti Grand Prix circuit.
However the honor of being the winningest Yamaha rder in MotoGP with 55 Grand Prix wins still stands with Valentino Rossi. This comes almost 57 years to the day when Fumio Ito astride the Yamaha RD56 went on to win the 1963 Belgian 250cc Grand Prix. Some of the greatest riders in the world like Jarno Saarinen, Phil Read and Kenny Roberts cut their teeth on Yamahas while many established stars like Giacomo Agostini and Valentino Rossi used it to further add to their glory.
Jarno Saarinen recorded Yamaha’s 100th Grand Prix victory in 1972 when he won the Czech 250 Grand-Prix on his TD-3 while Japanese ace Takazumi Katayama logged in win number 200 at the 1977 Swedish 350cc Grand-Prix at Anderstorp on his TZ350. The great American rider Eddie Lawson went on to score Yamaha’s 300th Grand Prix success when he won the 1987 Venezuelan Grand Prix on his YZR500 (OW86) while Valentino Rossi recorded win number 400 when he powered to victory in the 2004 Catalunya Grand Prix in Spain on his YZR-M1 (OWP3).
Unlike Honda Racing Corp, which has had a hand in the Moto3 class and also its predecessor 125cc class plus the earlier 250cc class, Yamaha has over the last decade concentrated solely on the MotoGP class and therefore one has to understand why it yet lags behind Honda in the number of all time Grand Prix wins.