Norton is set to field two all-star Aussie riders at the 2017 Isle of Man Senior and Superbike TT with its most exciting TT rider line-up yet after attracting the signatures of Aussie duo Josh Brookes and David Johnson to the factory team. Both riders will compete on the all-new SG6, derived from the recently launched V4 SS road bike.
The SG6 is hand built at Norton’s Donington Hall factory and is currently undergoing a punishing development and testing schedule in the hands of two-times TT winner and Norton development rider, Steve Plater.
Brookes returns to the TT following a year racing in World Superbikes and is no stranger to the TT. He claimed fastest newcomer at the TT in 2013 finishing a best place of seventh in the 2014 Senior race with his fastest ever TT lap, a staggering 129.859mph, set in only his second year at the Island.
After a two-year absence on the challenging 37.73-mile Mountain Course, Brookes is looking to build on his TT success on the new 230bhp Norton.
Speaking from his home in Australia, Brookes said:
“Firstly I want to come back to the TT, after SMR said I couldn't ride at the TT over the last two years I’ve been desperate to get back and race at the island. I like the history of the Norton and it will be so great to be a little part of the Norton story. It's just something that interests me, and I’m really excited by the project. It's always hard to predict results, especially around the island so I think it's important that I let it come to me. I've not been for two years, and I don't know how much the Norton bike has improved, but I hear great things about the bike.”
“My first ever race at the TT was in the Superbike and I got a top ten, so let's hope we are better than that at least, but realistically if we finish the races without a problem, and I'm in the 132mph club by the end of the fortnight then we’ll be celebrating.”
Fellow Australian Davo Johnson makes his return on a Norton which he took to become the fastest ever British motorcycle around the TT in 2016, claiming a seventh place in the Superbike TT and a best lap of 130.87mph.
“As a team we did such a great job last year, we all worked awesomely as a team and I really felt at home with Norton. Without that sort of relationship with your team it's almost impossible to get good results. I knew the 2017 bike was going to be better again after what we learnt in 2016, so I wanted to stay and make the next step with Norton.”
“This year I know if everything goes smoothly with no problems we can battle for the podium, I'm ready to be up there and I feel the bike will be too. But like I said, everything must be perfect as everyone is really flying these days. We had a small bike problem in the Senior TT last year which caused my concentration malfunction (laughs…)! But before that we were up dicing for a top 5 position and my ideal lap was 131.5mph, so I'm confident for good things this year.”
So what will make Davo feel like he and the team have done a good job and crack a well-earned beer open at the end of the Senior?
“The end of the Senior is a strange time for every rider I think it changes with every year too as the results play a huge part. If you had a s**t race like I did last year in the senior, well I was p****d off a bit... But after the Superbike race last year where we had our best results, well that was an amazing feeling! It was a tough race and everyone in the paddock was so pumped for us as a team. We definitely shut a load of the haters up and yes, I wanted a beer after that!”
The new Norton SG6 is a race-developed version of the Norton V4 SS road bike which was launched in November last year at Motorcycle Live to overwhelming success. All 200 of the V4 SS bikes have been sold and with features like a hand built billet aluminium frame, carbon fibre bodywork and an all new 1200cc, V4 motor its selling power speaks for itself.
Norton CEO Stuart Garner is understandably delighted at the announcement of two first-class riders five years after the historic brand made its TT return.
“There are a couple of reasons why we wanted to sign Josh Brookes. Firstly, he gives us the opportunity of a world class short circuit rider to move along the V4 road bike development, and secondly, with his TT rider experience and his achievement of being fastest newcomer in 2013, Josh is clearly capable of a 130mph-plus lap. Given the requirements of the team at this stage of the project this makes him a perfect rider for Norton.”
Delighted that Davo has returned to continue his journey with Norton, Garner said:
“To come in last year and move the development on and do all but a 131mph lap was a huge achievement and ground-breaking for the team. There’s a huge amount of respect from everyone in the Norton team for everything he has achieved and Davo has more than earned his place back on the bike in 2017.”
The SG6 will feature the V4 Aprilia CRT motor with Norton’s own V4 engine being raced in 2018. Heavily based on the TT racer geometry wise, the V4 SS road bike is almost identical to the SG6 TT bike in terms of frame stiffness, weight distribution and chassis.
“With first deliveries of V4 SS bikes not expected until the second half of 2017 it’s too early in the engine’s development to race the new Norton V4 engine given the dangers and endurance involved in competitive racing at the TT.”
“We’ve further strengthened the team with the addition of former Norton Factory rider Ian Mackman joining the team as a race engineer. ‘Mackers’ rode for us in 2013 on the Norton SG1.”
Ian will join experienced Norton Race Manager Johnny Cusack in the team along with TT legend Mick Grant who will continue in his role as Senior Advisor adding his extensive TT experience to the factory squad.
“They always say the Island gives you lessons so you have to curb expectations in the knowledge that the TT can deliver some very hard lessons and cruel luck. So, for 2017 we would of course like to build on our success of last year, but we don’t set ourselves any kind of hard targets other than making sure the bike and the team continue to move forwards! Then we’re happy!”