Norton's Aprilia-based TT bike

Spondon-framed CRT-style special to race on IOM

NORTON has revealed the bike it will race at this year's TT – a Spondon-framed special running an Aprilia RSV4 engine.

Although the British firm originally had plans to make its own MotoGP machine, complete with bespoke V4 engine and FTR chassis, and also hoped to race the same bike at the TT, the reality is somewhat less ambitious. An off-the-shelf Aprilia engine, not dissimilar to the kit used in CRT GP bikes, has been bolted to a Spondon-made chassis and will be ridden this year by Ian Mackman.

Spondon, which also made the frames for the last generation of Norton racers, is another company to be owned by current Norton boss Stuart Garner, so it's unsurprising that its chassis has replaced the FTR design originally proposed.

Off-the-shelf race-spec Ohlins suspension at both ends, plus Brembo brakes, means the Norton has the same level of kit as any other high-end racer, and with the strong Aprilia engine and no similar prototype-style rivals it could stand a decent chance of success, although Norton claims it's only hoping for a finish in the first year of its TT effort.

The firm is also at pains to point out that money for the new bike has come from sponsors rather than being taken from the road bike arm of the firm, answering critics who suggest Norton's production operation needs to get more firmly on its feet before the company starts to think about prototype racing.

Here's the official Norton statement:

Over the last 12-18 months Norton have been looking at a return to racing. Given that WSB and BSB only allow Homologated Road bikes into their racing classes, Norton has to look for ‘open’ or ‘prototype’ race classes to enter the new race bike in.

For all of the above, the TT stood out as the very obvious choice for Norton. The hard edge style of racing which gets much closer to fans and supporters in a true and real world way which is a very genuine and passionate form of racing, appeals to Norton far more than the energy drink and lycra clad pit lane of homologated road bike racing.

Ian Mackman is riding the new bike for us, he is a great guy and hugely passionate about his racing. We are pleased to have him in the team working with us to develop the bike. He’s in later for a bit of testing, Donington have kindly helped us with some track time.

The bike itself is a Spondon chassis with Ohlins front and back, BST carbon wheels are shod with Dunlop’s. The engine is an RSV V4, we have been talking to the Aprilia Factory in Italy and similar to CRT we have no absolute factory support off them, but they are there for information and help if and when required.

The bike itself has been built solely within the factory at Donington Park, we have made very many of the parts ourselves within our CNC machine facility here at the Norton factory. For example we have made our own wheel spindles through to throttle bodies! We have a great partner with the fuelling system and electronic package for the bike in Active Technologies Limited.

We’ve gone with our traditional polished aluminium tank, all the styling and bodywork has been put together here at the factory also. Replicast are working with us to complete the aero package.

Norton see this as a three year project, we are genuinely happy to come home with a solid finish this year. Any position would be a bonus! Over the three years we would like to be in a position to be podium competitive, although we totally understand it is a huge mountain to climb and we have our work cut out to achieve this.

Only now are we going racing on the budget we have available from sponsors and other commercial racing income, we have taken no money from the factory road bike business. We see this as a sustainable route to racing for Norton. Some suppliers to the road bike business have been really helpful and this has helped reduce costs to develop and make the bike.

We have lost no focus in our road bike business and we remain totally committed to growing volume in our road bike business to meet demand for the Commando 961.

The TT organisers have been really helpful and a refreshing change in the racing game. The Norton team are looking forward to getting there and providing some excitement and fun for the TT crowd, we’ve even lined up a TV presenter to serve brews for the fans front of garage.