Norton: 'What we learned last year created this bike'

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Norton design boss Simon Skinner and his small team of engineers, designers and mechanics sat down the week after the 2012 TT and sifted through notes and reams of computer data to work out what a bike would need for the 2013 TT.

The results, seen for the first time in an MCN world exclusive, are an almost completely new bike that has been created as a result of what the team and rider Ian Mackman learnt.

Norton has designed a new tubular alloy chassis that’s built by Norton-owned company Spondon. The bike has a longer swingarm, a bigger hand-built fuel tank and Öhlins suspension that can run as traditional passive suspension, semi or even fully active where it links with a GPS unit to adjust the suspension as the bike travels around the TT course.

The aerodynamics have been changed with a new fairing feeding air to a modified Aprilia RSV4 999cc V4 superbike engine. For 2013 the team has been working on the internals as Norton learns lessons it can use in its own V4 engine project, which is still underway.

Skinner said: “This has always been a three or four-year plan for us and the first year was nothing more than a learning time. This second attempt allows us to go with all that we have learned and we have also built the bike around that knowledge and data. What we learnt last year created this bike and that will take us forward for the next couple of years at least.

“There were some big lessons for the team last year and the biggest was working on the geometry of the bike to make it more stable. It’s hard to explain how tough the TT is on a bike in terms of the bumps and the speeds – and we ran out of time to be able to tackle them at the event.

“We learnt the speed of many of the TT sections were amplifying minor instability issues and making the rider slower. Hopefully these have been addressed.”

The biggest technical leap this year is the introduction of full active suspension. It uses Cosworth F1-derived electronics, a GPS satellite receiver and Öhlins FGR forks and shock to change the suspension as the bike travels around the course, and also to react to bumps.

This system can also run in semi-active mode so the damping is changed according to the way the bike is being ridden, or traditionally passive where it just soaks up bumps with a spring and damper unit.

Skinner told MCN: “We are not going to run the suspension in active mode until we are confident everything works with the bike in normal mode.

“Riding at the TT is all about the riders having faith and trust in the bike to do what they want it to do. We need them to know it’ll do exactly what they expect.

“The chassis and swingarm have been designed to make the bike as stable as possible on the fastest sections of the course and the swingarm length is already 580mm, which was the maximum we were able to go to last year. This year we have another 50mm to 60mm of extra wheelbase available if needed.”

Norton owner Stuart Garner already owned 50% of the frame-building firm Spondon, but earlier this year he completed the takeover of the firm. Using Norton’s designs the experienced Spondon workers are able to build and ship a new swingarm or chassis component within two days.

Skinner added: “One of the challenges this year is explaining to riders how much adjustability there is. Everything can be changed and that will be a shock for the guys. We will have to be careful to avoid confusion.”

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