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Norton Plans MotoGP Effort

Friday, September 10, 2010
There are few things more frustrating to a journalist than abiding by a voluntary news embargo. As I sat listening to Norton CEO, Stuart Garner, tell me about his plans to go GP racing my fingers were itching to be at the keyboard giving Motorcycle USA readers the news first. But, an agreement is an
Stuart Garner
Norton CEO, Stuart Garner, is committed to having Norton race in MotoGP.
agreement so our pages stayed blank - whilst Austrian magazine “Speedweek” broke the story!

To be fair to Norton, Gunther Wiesinger got his lead direct from Dorna, so there had been no foul play at Norton. Here’s the full detail of what, might, be happening.

First, Dorna has offered Norton two places on the 2012 MotoGP grid, but Norton has not yet accepted them. Garner wants GP racing to be successful and this means having all of the right infrastructure in place. However, plans are much further advanced than might first be thought.

You may be forgiven for thinking that a tiny factory, with less than 40 employees, simply can’t compete in the world’s most prestigious motorcycle racing championship and, were it not for a set of wholly exceptional circumstances, you would be correct. All three elements are of equal importance.

First, in England - and some other parts of the world - having Norton race again is the equivalent of being able to see Elvis play live on tour. Norton is the iconic motorcycle manufacturer and, in the right marketplace, the brand is solid gold. Equally, it has to be said that Norton does not enjoy rock star status in many countries - not the least of which is America.

Stuart Garner
While Norton is a rather small motorcycle manufacturer it has vast resources including 'Motorsport Valley', which contains many companies devoted to high tech engineering.
Next, because of this iconic status, Garner intends to go GP racing at a profit. It is not fair to reveal the precise details of his plans but they involve both motorcycling and non-motorcycling companies, and seem to be both credible and achievable. If Norton can race at less than no cost this will be a very clever trick.

Finally, Norton does not have to develop its own bike in-house. Within 100 miles of Norton’s headquarters is “Motorsport Valley” - the area of central England which contains a huge number of specialist companies servicing the Formula 1 car industry as well as aerospace and defense. Regardless of what it might say on the product’s label, much of the world’s highest tech engineering takes place on Norton’s doorstep, having been undertaken by firms completely unknown to the general public.

Stuart Garner
Norton may be covering their bases in terms of engineering and finance, but running a solid MotoGP team is incredibly difficult.
These companies live and die by being state of the art and by having lightning fast design-to-production schedules. No longer do you need a factory with a vast R&D facility when really smart engineers, computers and CNC machining can do the same job for a fraction of the cost.

Garner also wants Norton to race with a quirky style. He is a million miles away from the corporate suits of mainstream companies himself and, if Norton does appear in the MotoGP paddock, expect some explosive TV interviews - and much more!

So, everything looks to be good for seeing Norton on the MotoGP grid with a 1000cc bike in 2012 and its presence will certainly enliven the series.

My only concern is that there might be a misunderstanding of the difficulties involved. Look at the Suzuki GSV-R. Suzuki know an awful lot about GP racing, have two excellent riders in Loris Capirossi and Álvaro Bautista but still struggle to get in the top-10.

It is not to say that Norton can’t get on the podium - just that having engineering, skill and flair in addition to good riders and a healthy budget will not be enough. As Colin Edwards famously said: “Everyone is fast in MotoGP.”
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NINO   February 17, 2011 11:09 PM
Remember one thing, everything must change, the young become the old and mysteries do unfold! I have been following this Norton development for many many many years now! This is a new day my friends, Norton is back!
davide -norton in moto gp  January 26, 2011 09:23 AM
forza norton!!!!
Daniel -Boss  September 14, 2010 10:55 AM
Remembering the old Nortons,,,its hard to imagine them racing....I know they have a glorious history and will not be using the old bikes...but visions of kicking the damn things for hours just to get them started keep jogging my memory. I wish them well, it will be interesting.
KK -black bike  September 14, 2010 07:31 AM
regardless of whether or not they survive motogp, that black bike in the pic is hot. ill take two, except id probably be broke afterwords
Racer1 -C'mon Frank, put down the Koolaid...  September 14, 2010 05:10 AM
"Run-of-the-mill job"? Producing a MotoGP bike for ANY factory is hardly a run of the mill job... we are talking about the most specialized, competitive bikes in the world. Kenny Roberts accessed talent and support from exactly the same area, with exactly the same philosophy and expectations and ran around at the back of the pack before going broke. As to making a profit?! Running a team that showcases the sponsors in the top five STILL requires factory money... the running costs are enormous, wages, travel, accommodations, food, fees and that's after any development or manufacturing costs. What sponsors are going to pay MotoGP type money to watch an experimental bike wobble around at the back of the pack when running, and spend most of the race in the pits with mechanical and set up issues? Ilmor ring a bell? The KTM engine debacle? The entire Kenny Roberts MotoGP campaign? I'll take that bet and raise you!
Frank -Don't bet against Norton not going GP racing  September 13, 2010 12:24 PM
I can understand the sceptism but the story is worth reading in detail. First, Stuart Garner, who owns Norton, really knows what he is doing. His plans for going racing at a profit are sensible and credible. Therefore, Tim is slightly off the mark when he thinks that MotoGP - if Norton do take part - is going to cost the company any money. On the contrary, it will generate a net profit for them. What is certain is if Norton don’t make money from MotoGP racing then they won’t take part. Second, they don’t need to go to Ilmor or rely on their in-house staff to produce the bike. There is a huge pool of engineering talent on their doorstep and producing a MotoGP bike - given a decent budget - would be a standard, run-of-the-mill job for these companies. The problem I see for Norton is how to break into the top 10 of MotoGP. In this elite group, things get really tough. It’s not impossible but it is a huge challenge. Finally, this is not a PR stunt. Garner really does want to go MotoGP racing in 2012 and personally, I wouldn’t bet against him.
Tim B -Uhh  September 13, 2010 10:36 AM
Hey Norton - why not actually sell product that is competitive before trying to take on the world? Norton isn't what I would call successful and I wouldn't doubt going into MotoGP, and most likely failing, will put a major hurt on their wallet.
. -.  September 13, 2010 08:18 AM
I bet Ilmor has some leftover stuff they could pick up for cheap . . .
Mcguire -sewer rat  September 13, 2010 02:29 AM
Is there a Moto GP class for air cooled twins? They aren't thinking about taking on the multi's with that motor are they? That is a tall order
dbwindhorst -Knievel's other pre-HD rides  September 11, 2010 12:40 PM
Before jumping Harleys, Knievel campaigned on -- in addition to Norton -- Honda, Triumph (see the Caesar's Palace footage; and the Skycycle as originally imagined had a Triumph mill), and American Eagle-badged Laverda bikes.
bikerrandy -Norton in MotoGP  September 11, 2010 11:57 AM
My recollection sees Knievel on Triumphs in most his jumps. But comparing Evel to MotoGP is ludicrous.

Talk is cheap, Norton.
Racer1 -As if...  September 11, 2010 08:14 AM
This isn't going to happen - it's good publicity for the brand I guess, but really a load of PR BS. Oh... and Evil Knieval "flew the skies" on a Harley - that was his thing - US flag mean anything to you? Yea, he was initially sponsored by a Norton dealer, but the Kneival legend was Harley based through and through... Probably why he crashed so much...
William Cano -USA  September 10, 2010 07:30 PM
Of course we know Norton in the states it is Bike Evel Knieval flew the sky's in. I would like to see them compete though have little hopes for them,or any of the other entrants besides Honda or Yamaha as long as electronics are driving these bikes. Many may disagree but when these big manufactures map the tracks with Global positioning satellites, which they then use while racing to control the traction on the exits-it is straight cheating and you might as well just watch the Honda programmers play racing games on the ps3 with the Yamaha programmers. Dorna is ruining MOTOGP