“It’s ready, stick it in the truck,” says Norton’s CEO Stuart Garner as we witness him carefully applying the sponsor stickers to the gleaming Norton TT race bikes that will be campaigned by Aussie dream team Josh Brookes and David Johnson at this year’s Isle of Man TT races.
Norton is ready to make its biggest attack yet on the Isle of Man TT, and this is the bike they hope will get take the team to a top five position this year.
Two new specification Norton V4 RR SG6s will compete in both the Senior and Superbike TT races that kick-off with first practice this Saturday.
Johnson will start off race number one and be the first to head down Bray Hill in the races. Following success in the Superbike TT last year, which saw ‘Davo’ achieve a 130.872 mph lap, the team has expanded to include experienced British Superbike campaigner Brookes.
He may be better known for his British Superbike success, winning the BSB title in 2015, but Brookes is also no stranger to the Isle of Man TT.
Commitments to World Superbikes mean that he has been away from the TT for a couple of years, but he’s fast around the 37.73-mile Mountain course. In 2014’s Senior TT race Brookes achieved a fastest lap of 129.859mph and now he is gagging to get back. With a new bike based heavily on the upcoming Norton V4 RR road bike, the team are quietly confident of their best TT result yet.
After a successful programme of pre-season testing with both TT riders, and lots of development by 2009 Senior TT winner Steve Plater, the new V4 RR SG6 is Norton’s fastest bike yet.
At Oulton Park two weeks ago, Brookes lapped just one second a lap slower on the Norton than he did a few weeks previously on his British Superbike Yamaha R1, getting off the bike and declaring: “It’s ready to race.”
When you consider the Norton race bike is set-up to be ultra-stable for the bumpy, fast Isle of Man TT, and the BSB bike is ultra-rigid for short circuits, that’s no mean feat. Norton’s crew chief, Jonny Cusack told us: “The bike is another level from where we were last year. It has an all-new chassis taking everything we’ve learned from the SG5, and from Davo Johnson’s feedback.
He added: “We’ve been developing the V4 RR and V4 SS road bikes alongside the TT bike and the two projects are so closely linked that any improvements we’ve made on the TT bike can be fed back to the road bikes so customers get the benefit of our TT experience too.”
It’s a hell of a lot lighter than last year’s bike too, which means the power-to-weight ratio is improved and the handling is improved too. The chassis is almost identical to the V4 RR road bike, but features a double-sided swingarm and uses the Aprilia CRT MotoGP engine with Magneti Marelli electronics. It’s a known quantity, while the team continues to develop its own V4 road bike engine.
First deliveries of the £44,000 V4 SS road bikes are planned for the end of this year. In fact, three of the first V4 SS customers were deciding the spec of their own bikes while we were being shown around the Donington Park factory.
Whatever happens in the Isle of Man TT this year, a place where you often need luck to be successful even with the best packages and riders, you can’t help getting the feeling that Norton are quietly confident of their best result yet.