Thursday, December 21, 2006


Kenzo Tada was the first Asian to compete in the Isle of Man TT, in 1930; he was the Velocette agent for Japan, in Tokyo, and was the Japanese national racing champion in the 30's.

Invited to race at the 1930 TT by Veloce management as thanks for his efforts in Japan, it's believed he was loaned Alec Bennett's 1929 third-place winning machine. This was quite a leap of faith for the company, for although he was an expert racer in Japan (which used mainly dirt tracks until the 1960's), he had never set eyes on the complex and demanding 37.5-mile Island circuit. He acquitted himself well, gaining 15th place, and the nickname 'the India Rubber Man', as he took numerous minor spills during the course of the race, yet always remounted, and completed the Junior TT in fine time.

Top photo shows Tada astride the 350cc ohc KTT Velo, with Percy Goodman, Managing Director of Veloce Ltd, directly behind him.

Second photo shows Tada back in Japan, in traditional kimono, with (presumably) his own Tokyo-registerd KTT (identifiable by the strutted Webb forks, used only on the 1929-36 KTTs). I don't know the year, and in fact, information on Tada is very difficult to find. I had a conversation recently with a fellow seeking information on a Japanese dealer who had imported a Series A Vincent to race, pre-war. He found some locals who knew something of the story, but were basically unwilling to discuss the past, saying it was 'bad history'. This attitude of the older generation makes for a hard time writing about someone like Tada.

Last photo shows the different nationalities racing Velocettes in the 1930 TT - there must have been an effort by Veloce management to invite foreign riders for the TT that year (a tempting offer for any racer, as Velo had won the '29 Junior TT easily). Tada stands behind the rear wheel of the KTT. How it would all change in a few years...