The Japanese had lots of success in smaller GP classes in the 90s thanks to racers like Noboru Ueda, Tetsuya Harada, Shinya Nakano, and Daijiro Kato. At certain points in the mid-late 90s, more than a quarter of the 125cc field was actually comprised of Japanese riders. One of the land of the rising sun’s rising stars was Kazuto Sakata, who, despite not entering world-class competition until the age of 25, nonetheless managed to carve out a successful, albeit relatively brief, Grand Prix racing career.
After winning Japan’s national-level 125cc championship in 1990, Sakata stepped up to the World Championship the following year. It took him a couple of years to get settled, but with a few podiums and wins under his belt Kazuto was offered a seat aboard a factory Aprilia for the ’94 season, supposedly making him the first Japanese rider to race for a factory European team. ’94 also marked Sakata’s first world championship title which he achieved in the 125 class — a feat he then repeated in ’98, the year after Valentino Rossi bagged his first ever world title. There’s actually a weird video of Sakata, Rossi, and a handful of other riders at a kart track in Japan:
In ’99 Sakata jumped ship, leaving the Italian firm and taking a seat with Honda, though the rider failed to achieve satisfactory results, and would hang up his leathers for good at the end of the year. By the time Sakata retired, he’d racked up 29 poles, 41 podiums, 11 GP victories, and a pair of world championship titles — all in a matter of less-than-a-decade — though for whatever reason, the seasoned eighth-liter pilot never stepped up to a higher class to my knowledge.
A little over two-decades after Sakata’s final world title, his ’98 RSW has been listed for sale in Australia. Aside from the seller claiming the bike has been authenticated by Aprilia, information is incredibly scant. First introduced in ’91 to replace Aprilia’s AF1 racer, the RSW 125 was a highly-potent two-stroke, probably best remembered for its incredible handmade aluminum, twin-spar chassis, though every single component was the best of the best. The well developed engine was reportedly good for around 50hp at 12,500rpm, giving no less than ten riders the oomph needed to achieve world championship titles (granted two were badged as other Piaggio Group brands; Gilera and Derbi).
Despite being over 20 years old, this ex-championship-winning Aprilia is almost certainly still an awesome machine that would make for a seriously fun day at the track. The quality and caliber of the bike doesn’t get much higher, and the race pedigree definitely adds to the appeal. Having said all that, it won’t come as a surprise to hear this one is far from cheap. These kind of things never are.
You can find this ex- Kazuto Sakata world championship title-winning 1998 factory Aprilia RSW 125 GP (Frame number TF713) for sale here on RaceBikeMart in Australia with a price of $57,000 (or $80,000 AUS).