Motorcycle Racing History
As Yamaha celebrates 50 years in Gran Prix racing, it has released snapshots of motorcycle racing legends, including the below piece on Phil Read, a four-time World Champion. To delve further into the rich heritage of two-wheeled history, check out our Motorcycle History section.
A colorful character and one of the first to bring showmanship to Grand Prix motorcycle racing, Bill Ivy was a Yamaha star that dominated 125cc and 250cc competition in the mid-1960s.
The 1967 125cc World Champion with the RA31, the diminutive Englishman (157 cm and 50 kgs) from Maidstone was only able to demonstrate his ability on both two wheels and four for a short-time as a fatal accident slowing down in practice for the East German Grand Prix at Sachsenring in 1969, riding for Jawa, ended his life at the age of just 26.
Ivy took his first race on a Yamaha (125cc RA97) in 1965 at the Isle of Man TT, back when the mountain road course was the pinnacle and almost the definition of road racing.
Ivy joined the works team in 1966 and grabbed his first win around the speedy lanes of Montjuich Park in Barcelona. Eight victories from twelve Grands Prix ensured his name entered the record books in 1967. Ivy's statistics make for impressive reading at the highest level as he recorded a phenomenal 42 podiums from 46 starts, celebrating 21 of those as wins. He tried his hand at Formula Two and showed some decent speed but was enticed back to the 350cc class in 1969.
Bill's love of life and reputation as a playboy of the paddock would influence the next generation of racers with individuals like Barry Sheene citing Ivy as one of the riders he looked up to. Ivy will certainly be remembered by older race fans for his fantastic duels with team-mate Phil Read and within Yamaha for his prolificacy at a time when their 125 and 250 two-stroke machines ruled the FIM Grand Prix World Championship divisions.