The final moment of the 1968 Isle of Man lightweight TT, where Mitsuo Itoh became the first Japanese rider to win the TT

1960s
where it all began

For a decade, Suzuki had confined itself to racing on home turf in Japan. But in 1960, it made its debut on the international stage at the legendary Isle of Man TT. And for us, and the rest of the motorcycling world, nothing would ever be the same again.

ISLAND RACE

The hallowed tarmac of the Isle of Man has witnessed some of motorsport's greatest moments. So it was fitting that the 1960 TT marked Suzuki's first appearance in international racing.

In 1960, the TT races were run over the now-legendary Snaefell mountain course for the first time. But that wasn't the only landmark event in the first meeting of the new decade. It turned out to be the last time the peerless Italian MV Augusta team would dominate the solo classes. More importantly for history, though, it was also the first year in which Suzuki appeared on the start list.

It was a quiet beginning: our three 125cc machines all finished the event in solid, if unremarkable 15th, 16th and 17th positions. But that would be the last time we settled for the minor placings on the Isle of Man - or anywhere else, for that matter.

In 1961, rising East German star Ernst Degner joined Suzuki. Having narrowly missed out on a world 125cc title with MZ, Degner had defected to the West by driving his Wartburg car over the border into Denmark - with his family in the boot!

Alongside his racing talent, Degner had developed a wealth of specialist two-stroke knowledge in the GDR. He spent the winter of 1961 at our Hamamatsu racing facilities in Japan, helping to develop our new-generation racing engines. A few months later, their time - and his - would come.

For the 1962 TT, the organisers introduced a new 'Ultra-Lightweight' race for 50cc machines. By the time the event came round in June, our new 50cc RM62 was ready to go - and Degner was the man to ride it.

Before the event, there were those who wondered if 50cc machines really belonged at the TT. Degmer's stunning performance silenced the sceptics instantly and permanently. His average speed of 75.12mph over the two-lap (75.46-mile) race gave him an emphatic victory - and Suzuki its first World Championship race win.

Denger retired from racing in 1966, but his name lives on in the Degner Curve at the Suzuka circuit in Japan. For us, he'll always be our first TT winner - and the man who started it all.

A RISING POWER

Building on its first TT successes, Suzuki went on to dominate 50cc and 125cc World Championship racing throughout the 1960s, setting a pattern for the decades that followed.

In October 1962, just four months after Ernst Degner's sensational win in the new Ultra Lightweight class at the Isle of Man TT, Suzuki scored its first World Championship win in the 125cc category.

It came in the 13th and final round, at the Autódromo Oscar Alfredo Gálvez in Buenos Aires, Argentina. For New Zealand-born Hugh Anderson, who'd joined the Suzuki factory team in 1961, it was his first win of the season and an appropriate high note on which to end the year.

In 1963, Suzuki went into its second full season confident and hungry. Few could have imagined just how successful it would turn out to be. In June, Mitsuo Itoh put in a barnstorming ride to retain Suzuki's Ultra Lightweight TT title, becoming the first - and so far only - Japanese TT winner. Hugh Anderson, meanwhile, seemed to be living a charmed life: six wins left him the runaway winner of the 125cc World Championship, with Suzuki riders, including Ernst Degner, filling four of the top six places. He also took the title in the 50cc Championship, with Suzuki claiming its first Manufacturer's titles in both classes.

For the next four seasons, Suzuki bikes and riders were unstoppable. In 1964, they took a third consecutive Ultra Lightweight TT title, plus the Rider's and Manufacturer's 50cc World Championships. The following year, Anderson regained his 125cc World Championship crown, and with it the Manufacturer's title.

In 1966, Hans-Georg Anscheidt, from West Germany, won the first of his two consecutive 50cc World titles for the Suzuki factory team. But our seventh Manufacturer's Championship in this category would also be our last. In 1967, world motorsport's governing body, the FIM, announced rules changes that saw Suzuki and other Japanese manufacturers withdraw from the World Championship. Even so, Anscheidt stayed loyal to Suzuki and took a third Rider's title in 1968 as a privateer, riding a 1967-spec machine. It was the end of an era - but what an era it had been.