First World title!
Phil Read shines as Yamaha's first world champion
The 1964 World GP series consisted of 11 rounds. Yamaha's British entrant Phil Read took five wins to shine as Yamaha's first world champion. Another Yamaha rider, Mike Duff also recorded a win that brought the effective constructor points allowing Yamaha to win its first manufacturer's title. The best six races of the overall 11 were tallied up to decide who would win the rider and the constructor's titles for the year.
The opening round was held in Daytona, which marked the first American round of the GP. Again for this competition, Yamaha had Fumio Ito and Phil Read riding on air-cooled, 2-stroke, 2-cylinder RD56's. On the very first lap of the race Ito and Read headed the pack. However, problems with their machine unfortunately led both riders to retire from the race. Only Read started the race in the 2nd round, the Spanish Grand Prix. The team was able to solve the issues experienced in the US GP and finished the race in 3rd place. An extremely fierce battle then took place in the 3rd round in France with last year's champion James Redman on an air-cooled, 4-stroke, 4-cylinder Honda. After a big charge mid-way through the race, Read took the first win of the season with an astonishing margin of 1 minutes 45 seconds, putting him on the top of the championship ranking.
Yamaha brought in a 1964 RD56 model for the 4th round, the Isle of Man's Tourist Trophy Race. The team consisted of [later YMC president] Takehiko Hasegawa as the team manager and with Read and Duff as its riders. The two riders achieved 1st and 2nd positions in the qualifying. However in spite of Read recording the fastest lap, both machines suffered problems, forcing early retirement from the races. Read's season ranking therefore dropped back to 3rd behind Redman and Alan Shepherd. In addition, Roy Boughey on a production Yamaha TD-1 put on a good show in taking 5th place.
Read and Duff took 2nd and 3rd respectively in the next round in the Netherlands. Read's 2nd to the winner Redman was lost only by half a wheel length. Round six, the Belgium Grand Prix, was where Yamaha clinched its first GP victory at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps the year before. Read took the lead at the start, but had it taken back by Duff. In stark contrast to the worsening condition of Read's machine performance as he fell back in the pack, Duff showed great form with improvement on every lap to take the win over Redman with a gap of 36 seconds. This was the first time a Canadian had won a Grand Prix. On the other hand, Read fought back with three straight wins in the 7th round in West Germany, the 8th round in East Germany, and the 9th round in Ireland. Yamaha trounced the others onwards from the Belgium Grand Prix with four consecutive wins making five wins for the series. Yamaha sealed the manufacturer's title with two races still remaining. This was the first constructor's title achieved by a 2-stroke machine.
Read's own title-deciding race was the 10th round in Monza, Italy. Winning here meant that Yamaha would take a double championship, having already sealed off the manufacturer's title. Honda introduced their new air-cooled, 4-stroke, 6-cylinder machine in this round. Riding this new machine, Redman led the first part of the 22-lap race, but Read took the lead from lap 14, and slowly increased the gap on Redman. Duff, meanwhile, raced with speeds which broke the lap record to overtake Redman and finish second. With this, Yamaha had achieved five consecutive wins. Read was crowned the champion before reaching the final round. While Honda introduced a 6-cylinder machine, Yamaha was busy developing a new factory machine featuring a 250cc V4 engine. The final round saw a one-two finish by Honda, but Yamaha'sHasegawa finished 3rd to take the last podium spot.
First points finish for Yamaha
Yamaha competed in the 125cc class in the Netherlands in 1964. Since competing in the 125cc class for the first time in 1961, Yamaha had been using an air-cooled, 2-stroke, single-cylinder engine, but with other teams introducing machines with multiple-cylinder engines, Yamaha also introduced the RA97 featuring an air-cooled, 2-stroke, 2-cylinder engine. Although Read could not match the pace of Redman on the Honda with its 4-cylinder 125cc engine, he took the checkered flag in 2nd place. This became the first points finish for Yamaha in the GP125cc class. Read placed 8th in the ranking. Hiroki Matsushima and Akiyasu Motohashi rode the RA97 in the final round in Japan to finish 5th and 6th respectively. Yamaha ended the season 3rd in the manufacturer's ranking after Honda and Suzuki.
Cate. Rider Machine 250cc Phil Read RD56 250cc Mike Duff RD56 250cc Hiroshi Hasegawa RD56 125cc Phil Read RA97 125cc Akiyasu Motohashi RA97
Pos. Cate. Rider Constructor Point 1 250cc P. Read Yamaha 46(50) 2 250cc J. Redman Honda 42(58) 3 250cc A. Shepherd MZ 23 4 250cc M. Duff Yamaha 20 5 250cc T. Provini Benelli 5 6 250cc T. Taveri Honda 11 9 250cc T. Robb Yamaha 7 14 250cc H. Hasegawa Yamaha 4
Pos. Constructor Point 1 Yamaha 48(64) 2 Honda 42(64) 3 MZ 25(26) 4 Benelli 15 5 Suzuki 7 6 Morini 7