Interview: MCN quizzes Norton boss on an amazing year

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MCN quizzes Norton’s boss Stuart Garner on an amazing year for him and his team… 

How would you sum up 2010?
In a word: amazing. Less than a year ago we’d gone public for the first time at the NEC, but we’d not delivered a bike, had less than a dozen staff and were still in the prototype stage. Since then it’s just been a rollercoaster. We’ve gone from that to not just delivering bikes, but having them serviced. We’ve gone full circle.

Highlight of the year?
Delivering that first bike. That was a massive thing for us – for the whole team to be able to say we’ve done it and brought Norton back. But there’s also been so many individual events – Stalker riding at the Thundersprint, taking engine production in house, all the other shows and events we’ve attended… they’ve all contributed to an amazing year. It’s all given me a warm glow about what we’ve achieved.

And low points?
There’s been plenty of those, too, particularly the aggro we had with engine delivery. But most of these have been overcome and turned into little victories. The saddest point, for me, was the demise of Donington over the year, coming in every day and seeing it get worse and worse – but even that’s turned round now too and we’ve BSB and WSB to look forward to here in 2011.

Do you think you’re over the worst?
On the basis we’ve the first model all bought and paid for and profitable – yes. It means we can go forward. The first bike is the hardest. Getting off the ground when you’ve zero income is really hard. So, yes, I think we’ve seen the hardest times. There’s been so much scepticism but we’re over the worst of that now. People own bikes, enjoy them and have had them serviced here so people now know we’re credible.

Anything you’d change?
Probably the way we were trying to be honest about targets and what we were trying to achieve. We’ve now learnt that people just beat you up with that. You get to learn in manufacturing and engineering that if it can go wrong it will and that statements you make just come back to bite you on the arse. But overall I’m happy with what we’ve done. Looking back maybe we should have been vaguer about things but that’s just not my style…

What are you looking forward to most in 2011?
Plenty… the new prototype bike we’ll be launching at the end of the year, some strong racing announcements we’re currently working on, there will be some fantastic new people joining us and we’re talking about expanding here at Donington – and I have to say we completely support Kevin Wheatcroft and what he is trying to do here. Overall, everything is starting to fire on all cylinders.

Anything else?
Just a big ‘thankyou’ for everyone’s goodwill and help – particularly to our suppliers for their flexibility and understanding and to our customers for their patience. Without both of them we wouldn’t be where we are today.

Phil West

By Phil West

MCN Contributor and bike tester.