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EXCLUSIVE: Norton plots Isle of Man TT return ‘soon’ to cap off recovery

Norton Motorcycles is set to make another return to the Isle of Man TT, this time with the benefit of investment from parent company TVS Motors

David Johnson Norton Isle of Man TT

Norton Motorcycles will be making a return to the Isle of Man TT ‘fairly soon’ as a crowning moment of its recovery from near-collapse, according to interim CEO John Russell.

The British marque comes into 2021 with renewed ambition and vigour almost 12 months on from being brought to the brink of collapse amid an unfolding pensions scandal involving then-CEO Stuart Garner. 

While that investigation remains ongoing, Norton as a motorcycle company came close to folding before it was snapped up by TVS Motors, one of India’s foremost manufacturers. 

What is Norton Motorcycles planning for 2021?

With the ensuing 2020 months spent relocating its company offices, honouring existing orders and returning to full production - all against the spectre of COVID-19 - Norton says hitting the famed Mountain Course on the Isle of Man once again remains in its plans.

The blue riband road race has been a centrepiece of Norton’s long heritage with multiple victories during different periods over the last century. As such, Russell says a return to the TT represents a prime opportunity for the regenerated Norton to rebuild its reputation on an international stage.

“Norton is inextricably linked with racing, and in particular with TT. That’s got to be part of what we are in the future,” he told Visordown in an exclusive interview. “How we get back, when we get back, who we partner with, what is the bike, all those things are yet to come. 

“It’s got to happen fairly soon, I can’t imagine a future for Norton under TVS where we say we’re not going to go racing, the two things are so connected. I grew up at the back end of the Geoff Duke era and the Manx Norton was the coolest bike on the planet. 

“You couldn’t talk or think about Norton without thinking of racing. They were dominant in those various eras and the past was extraordinary. The same as Ferrari, you cannot imagine Ferrari not racing [in F1], could you imagine Norton not racing.

“[We follow a] pursuit of excellence dimension, with the company and the excitement that this creates. If you’re at the leading edge of technological performance and getting the last one percent out of the bike in a racing environment, that sharpens you up across every other aspect of what you do. 

“And it also creates a sense of being the best and wanting to succeed, it creates a very positive behaviour in the organisation about how we can be the best and that spills over into the rest of the business.

“Then there is the development side. If you are testing your bike to the limit and experimenting with new ways of extracting better performance from the brakes, the gearbox, or the engine, whatever. That’s got to play into your knowledge and understanding experience when you’re developing your road bikes. 

“I think it integrates fully and way more so than in the car business, where I was before. In the car business it’s optional, in the motorcycle business it connects much more naturally to the core of the business. It’s not an add-on, its part of the structure of the brand.”

Norton made its high-profile return to the TT in 2014 with the new V4RR sportsbike, but despite an illustrious roster of riders in that time - including John McGuinness, Peter Hickman, Josh Brookes and Davey Todd - success proved fairly modest with no podiums to show for from the two Superbike races and the Superlight category it was entered into for 2020 before the TT was cancelled.

The 2021 Isle of Man TT has since also been cancelled due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 situation