As the Superbikes line up at this year’s TT to blast off down Glenclutchery road, the Norton SG4 piloted by two times TT winner Cameron Donald is guaranteed to turn a few heads. It’s a stunning looking piece of kit and makes the most thunderous, earth shattering noise from its 200 bhp Aprilia engine.
Building and prepping a racing motorcycle to face the most demanding race in the world is a huge task for even the largest, most experienced teams. The current Honda Racing factory set-up, for example, has racked up sixty-two wins at the TT. You could say it has a head start.
For a company of Norton’s size, it’s a task of herculean proportions. The bike’s engine may currently be Italian, but CEO Stuart Garner has stated that by 2017, Norton will roll out a 100% British bike to race in the TT – including the engine. You just have to admire that focus, drive and determination.
Just about everything has been changed on the bike in comparison to last year’s model. In fact, work started on the SG4 as TT 2014 was still underway. Every aspect has been redesigned to improve power delivery and handling: the engine, chassis, swingarm, suspension and brakes. The team’s in a far stronger place at this point in time in comparison to last year. They’ve had considerably more testing time, (they basically had none last year!), with Steve Plater doing all the initial test riding again before Cameron Donald was flown in from Australia. This year’s bike also has significantly more power – in excess of 200 bhp. It’s an Aprilia RSV4 derived engine and sourced from last year’s Paul Bird Motorsport MotoGP team. Last year’s bike managed a 126 mph lap but had two DNFs. This year, Cam Donald has indicated that his first objective is to try to achieve a top 10 place in practice – then they’ll go from there. To do this, he thinks he’ll have to record a 128 mph or better lap.
Ultimately, Stuart Garner’s ambition is to steer Norton to a future Isle of Man TT win and he seems intent on continuing to push hard to achieve this goal. He knows that it puts the brand out in front of a global audience. If they can have a successful TT this year – maybe even a top 10 finish in one of the Superbike races, that would be an enormous first step towards fulfilling this objective.
So, as the bikes head off this year on the first of their six lap races, look out for the beautiful shiny silver Norton SG4 at no 19 making the thunderous noise and just think of all the colossal effort that has gone into getting the iconic British motorcycle brand onto the start line.