Norton Motorcycles has a rich heritage at the Isle of Man with 94 victories among 323 trips to the podium, including the inaugural TT in 1907 and Steve Hislop’s 1994 Senior race win (Norton’s most recent victory), but that will not be added to with the TVS-owned firm stating they are “not going back to racing bikes at the Isle of Man”.
Despite attempts as recently as 2019 when John McGuinness rode for the then Stuart Garner-owned brand, in the Superbike class on a V4 which ended in mechanical failure, while Peter Hickman piloted a Superlight to 8th place in the Supertwin class, the new incarnation of the British manufacturer has no plans of returning anytime soon.
When asked at the recent Norton Commando 961 riding launch about the future of the brand, ‘Where does racing fit?’, the answer was simply, “It doesn’t.”
Christian Gladwell, Chief Commercial Office, Norton Motorcycles, said, “It’s not part of the conversation in the traditional sense. We’re not going set up a MotoGP team anytime soon, we’re not going to go back to racing bikes at the Isle of Man anytime soon. We’re unbelievably respectful of that place. We might, hopefully, touch wood, be doing something unbelievably cool which might involve the Isle of Man, but it would be creatively executed and artistically done.”
Above: Rem Fowler, winner of the inaugural TT in 1907, on a Norton
Head of Communications, John Hogan, added “I had the idea of a factory Norton racing team winning Goodwood Revival next year. It could be a factory Norton racing team but we’re not doing BSB, World Superbike or MotoGP. But even if we don’t win [at Goodwood], the racing story is enough.
When was the last time that the factory team from Norton entered the Scottish Six-Day Trial in the classic class? When was the last time we dug a bike out and actually did go racing again?
“We can race in the Manx Grand Prix or the without the focus being on World Superbike. £10m is a drop in the ocean for a MotoGP team. There’s no point in going back [to the TT] to try and win a new audience for a bike that’s produced in such low volumes, so even if you found the best story to tell everyone from every race, how many bikes is it going to sell? What’s the commercial reality of spending all that money to go and tell that story when we can dust down that 1940s clunker out the back, stick somebody really cool on it and tell a story that we can own?”
Added Gladwell, “The question of what our racing future looks like is a broad one. If you’re expecting to see a Norton on the grid in MotoGP, SBK or BSB then you’re probably going to be a little disappointed. Those championships in particular don’t align with Norton’s current intentions. That doesn’t necessarily preclude Norton from returning to the competitive stage in the future though. There are some amazing racing spectacles that we’re interested in, both in the UK and further afield, that will allow us to celebrate our racing legacy. Under TVS Motors, Norton is at the start of a number of journeys, we look forward to sharing more plans with regard to our racing journey in particular in the future.”