Norton To Make MotoGP Comeback In 2012?

If the point of the 2012 regulations was to see more manufacturers return to the MotoGP grid, the move is already looking like a success. Both BMW and Aprilia are linked to moves back to MotoGP - though mainly through privateer CRT team efforts, rather than as factory prototypes- and now, another manufacturer looks set to join the fold. For the German-language magazine Speedweek is reporting that the legendary English manufacturer Norton is set to enter a two-man team for 2012.

According to the veteran Austrian journalist Gunther Wiesinger, Norton has asked Dorna for two places on the 2012 grid, and Norton boss Stuart Garner has submitted a signed application to Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta to race when the MotoGP class returns to 1000cc. The MotoGP effort is part of a long-term marketing plan by Norton to change their image from classic motorcycles to modern sportsbike manufacturer, with plans to introduce a range of high-tech road bikes in the future. The Norton website confirms this intention, stating:

"Future development will also lead to the introduction of the all new modern motorcycles and will represent the ultimate expression of the Norton brand."

A return to premier class motorcycle racing is a logical step for Norton. The marque has one of the very longest traditions in motorcycle racing, starting from their domination of what was then called the Continental Circus in the 1930s, to being the mainstay of racing privateers with the single-cylinder Manx Norton from 1950 onwards, including a world championship with Geoff Duke in 1950. The Norton got the careers of many of the early greats off to a start, including Duke, Mike Hailwood, Jim Redman and Derek Minter. So enduring was the bike that it was still scoring world championship points as late as 1970.

The collapse of the British motorcycle industry - and the arrival of the two-stroke engine - put an end to Norton in racing, though the early '90s saw the brand return to the grid with the ill-fated 588 Wankel-engined machine. Arguments over exactly how to calculate the capacity of a Wankel engine, reliability problems and a performance deficit meant that the Norton Wankel bike never became a permanent fixture on the grid.

The arrival of Norton does raise the question of whether their entry is to be accepted as a factory prototype team or as a CRT team. The CRT rules allow any team to enter, even with a prototype engine, but the Grand Prix Commission will decide whether an entry is a CRT entry or a factory prototype entry. The meeting of the Grand Prix Commission at Brno did open up an attractive loophole to factories, allowing teams to be reevaluated part way through the season. This might open the way for small factories like Norton to enter bikes as CRT teams, then get moved up to factory prototype status - losing 3 liters of fuel and (in the first instance) 3 engines per season - if they become too successful.

If Norton are only accepted as a factory prototype, then the big question remains of just how successful they can be. With electronics currently dominating racing as a result of the fuel restrictions, there is the question of whether a brand new manufacturer and a brand new team can learn to use the electronics quickly enough to become competitive. If the factory has only 21 liters of fuel at its disposal, it could be hard to compete against the likes of Honda and Yamaha, who have huge R&D budgets to spend on electronics and fuel metering. If they are initially accepted as a CRT team, then the Norton could be developed more slowly, with the 24 liter fuel allowance making engine control and power delivery more easy to control using conventional methods.

Whether Norton are successful or not in their initial return to the race track, the sight of the glorious old Norton logo circulating with the MotoGP pack will bring a cheer to the hearts of long-time motorcycle race fans all over the world, but especially in Britain. With British involvement and interest in Grand Prix racing at an all-time low, the return of one of the great British names in racing could spark a revival of interest in the series. And given the rumored sums involved in the BBC's contract to broadcast MotoGP, the sound of a British racing Norton on the grid will also be music to Carmelo Ezpeleta's ears.

Back to top


Why not just get rid of fuel limits. It would seem that this is one of the biggest hurdles for anyone coming into GP. It would be the first step to less electronics on the bike if they did this.

,,Kawasaki couldn't afford to keep going (keep in mind that they they had a winner when they left). And Suzuki will probably run out of money after next year. ,,, and we are to believe that Norton can afford to jump in? Hello Ilmor?

Wouldn't it be interesting if Triumph made a 1050 version of the 675 sport bike? They're giving a good try in WSS and I would like to see the same in SBK. Good luck to Norton. The more , the merrier.

Id like to see this happen
It would only take a million fans to pledge a tenner each and 2 bikes could be on the grid, The electronic expertise is here in the u/k to see the likes of MacLaren racing cars and the Williams im sure a suitable package could be put together Norton do have the resources but not the money

I had a fold-out poster on my wall in High School of the red, white & blue "Norton Rotary Rocket" as it was dubbed by Motorcyclist magazine. I thought it was the coolest thing ever...

I hope they join the fray, and it's a shame it won't be a rotary. But then again, I'm not holding my breath either... it is redundant to keep writing 'CRT team'. Are there claiming-rule team teams (teams of teams)? If not, 'CR teams' would suffice, or CRT entries/efforts/outfits/what-have-you. Yes, I am pedantic, but neolgistic TLAs are sufficiently annoying without using them egregiously. [end rant]

But you're in the same situation as King Canute trying to hold back the sea. Humans like things in threes, hence the TLA. We should probably say "CRT" but nobody is going to, it's going to be called a CRT team by the millions of people with less of a strict view on language, so the purists (and I have to say I did spend a lot of time thinking about whether to go with CR team or CRT or CRT team) are going to lose out.

Don't forget, there are also plenty of references to the CRT rules, which is also redundant, as R stands for Rule... 

Yes, there will always be people who make grammatical errors, typically out of laziness or simple ignorance. (My favorite example is a college advertised on the radio as 'the ITT technical institute'...clearly grammar is not on the curriculum.)

Unlike far too many moto-journalists, you have demonstrated a command of the English language, which is something I appreciate as a reader. The fact that you deliberated on the issue suggests that it is worth the trivial effort to write 'CRT effort/entry/etc.'; in fact, I've noticed that the journalists that I admire most (e.g., Michael Scott) have thus far avoided the 'CRT team' acronymic heresy. I hold you in the same regard, which is why I kvetched. I'm kind of joking about all this, by the way...but--all the same--please stop with the CRT teaming :-)

I'm flattered, but I'm afraid this is a battle I'm going to lose. Within a year (and especially by the middle of 2012), everyone will be using the term "CRT team" as it's just so much more convenient to do so. With (or without) your permission, I shall choose my fights more carefully, and take up causes I at least stand a chance of winning...

"Don't forget, there are also plenty of references to the CRT rules, which is also redundant, as R stands for Rule... "

Think about it a little longer... its not redundant. There are other rules that apply to the CRTs besides the engine claiming, right?

All meant in fun Mr. Emmett. :-)

But yes, that CRT Teams thing is killing me too.

The deeper issue that I have with the CRT moniker is the fact that it's Dorna's convenient euphemism for 'production-based teams', which they are all too eager to paper over.

In the interest of consistency, perhaps we ought go further. To wit: If it is truly too onerous to write/read 'claiming-rule/production-based team', how can we reasonably bear the burden of writing/reading 'prototype-based teams'?? Surely, we would all happily embrace the equally 'useful' acronyms 'FPT' and 'SPT' for factory-prototype team and satellite-prototype team, respectively.

Or, just call a spade a spade--the MotoGP paddock will comprise prototype bikes and production-based bikes, and FFS sakes cut out these superfluous and evasive TLA acronyms.

Given the number of words  I churn out over the course of a year, I like the TLAs. But if you'll pay for corrective surgery for my RSI, I'll stop using TLAs! 

Michael Czysz already did that when he introduced the C-1 "An American GP Bike". Now he's racing sewing machines...

How many times have we heard this from Norton? It all follows a predictable pattern;

1) New owner takes over Norton
2) New owner takes out large loan
3) New owner releases 'new' model(s) trading heavily on Norton's heritage from the 50s, 60s and 70s.
4) New owner talks of plans to go GP racing
5) Bank forecloses on loan due to economic difficulties and puts Norton up for sale.

And so it goes. Rinse and repeat.

If Norton couldn't supply the Moto2 grid with their 588 wankel engines, I'm not sure they're capable of putting together a bike to make the big show.

If memory serves me , Norton was making 185 at the rear wheel with thier rotary engine with 588CC back in the early 80s!! The rotary engine is a far superior design
to even the latest high tech piston designs when it comes to producing hp. Secondly it is a very compact engine that is bulletproof at high Rpm and smooth as silk if the rotors are run in opposite revolutions. The down side is the sound is reminisant of your Moms kitchen blender which never made it popular with the public and fuel consumption is on par with a Titan Earth mover.

They really need to limit the use of electronics! Thats what the riders right wrist is for!

the right wrist works for wheelie control,spin control ect!

let all the teams use the same ECM!

CRT team bit like ATM machine...............

They will need another gasper sponsor to even make the grid.Then the entire contents of a recently redundant F1 team etc etc etc......................

..., that's why I call them 'bank machines'. :-)

This is something that has been flashing through my imagination for some time now. Perhaps it is not as impossible as it sounds?

Take Cosworth or Ilmor who can build a suitable engine, or maybe they have something on the blocks which will be the basis of a future superbike? Harris or FTR can build a chassis and there is sufficient electronics knowhow in the F1 world in the UK, including enthiusiasm for the Norton name! I suppose the CRT route is the most sensible, but even for a production machine Norton Cosworth has an evocative ring to it don't you think?

I'd be willing to put £100 of my money into something like this and I'm sure there are many other success starved Brits who would do the same or even more! As the poster above suggested, 100,000 x £100 = £10,000,0000.

Ok, this may be sounding a bit over the top, but at least there is enthiusiasm and support for this! That goes a long way towards making things happen, even in a world where big business and commercial interests are taking over our sport, we can still have a chance to revisit a simpler and more sporting world!

Just continuing my gripe on this CRT thing, for the reasons Kropotkin mentioned in the article concerning the policing and possible abuse of the system, I hope it never happens. An alternative would be much simpler, and they seem to have the basis of it with the road engine formula!

I just checked the domain name is still available......

I assume in the UK getting the keys to the treasury is available by resurrecting a bygone reduntant m/c 20th century. In the states all the government's money you want can be yours with 2 words...

sustainable energy

I hope it actually happens, and I hope the current machines and engines are as beautiful and the old ones were.

Maybe Vale will be interested after he is through racing the Duc. Now THAT would make history.

I was lucky enough to be in the Norton Suite at the Donnington GP last year and had a great conversation with Stuart Garner and one of his staff. He was talking about going to Moto GP with a new bigger rotary engine. I know that people will scoff at this because of the lack of new companies ever getting close to racing in GP's after pumping ££££'s into unrealistic attempts but there was no doubt in my mind that he was serious.
I have no doubt either that a new rotary motor could be powerful enough to match that of the rest of the field but have to wonder if they could manage to get thier electronics to anywhere near the standard of the competition. That surely has to be the biggest challenge as right now it seems whoever has the best electronics package wins!
I for one would love to see the brand back in the top flight because just four manufacturers in the series makes a bit of a mockery of it's World Championship status in my opinion.

"Whether Norton are successful or not in their initial return to the race track, the sight of the glorious old Norton logo circulating with the MotoGP pack will bring a cheer to the hearts of long-time motorcycle race fans all over the world, but especially in Britain."

I have to agree with the sentiments of many that Norton is unlikely to make the grid. I would be happy if they made it to the showroom! But I also agree with your sentence above; it would be nice to see the logo on the track again (like seeing Lotus in F1, although at the back of the field is sometimes embarrassing).

"The collapse of the British motorcycle industry - and the arrival of the two-stroke engine - put an end to Norton in racing, though the early '90s saw the brand return to the grid with the ill-fated 588 Wankel-engined machine. Arguments over exactly how to calculate the capacity of a Wankel engine, reliability problems and a performance deficit meant that the Norton Wankel bike never became a permanent fixture on the grid."

I did not follow motorcycle racing then, but what was the calculation controversy? Mazda, IMSA, USAC, and the ACO have been doing it for years!

The question with a Wankel engine is what capacity it is. Do you count each chamber as a separate cylinder, or do you count each rotor as a separate cylinder? I understand that the capacity of the Mazda engines is basically doubled for calculating their displacement for racing purposes, but you can argue that the displacement should be tripled. This is the problem facing regulatory bodies.

...They can pull this off. Maybe MV Agusta will get back into this also. Maybe when monkeys fly out of my butt.

Wasn't the Norton entry of the time - early nineties - some crazy twin shocker entered by ex factory engineer Brian Crighton with Steve Spray as pilot? Not an official Norton entry at all. As I remember it bombed. Barely qualifying at Eastern Creek.

But the talk prior was that its swept capacity was never completely defined. Either 588cc or double that. So quite how it wangled it's way onto the grid of a 500cc class I cannot remember.

There was both an official Norton entry, and a separate Roton entry, which is the Brian Crighton effort you are referring to. And as you say, swept capacity is notoriously difficult to calculate.

A traditional piston engine displaces a certain volume for every crank revolution. For instance, today's GP engines displace 800cc of volume for every complete crankshaft revolution. In a four stroke piston engine it takes two crank revolutions to complete the cycle and it only takes one revolution to complete the cycle in a two stroke engine. In a wankel rotary engine the displacement per crankshaft revolution is the displaced volume of one rotor flank multiplied by the number of rotors. Pretty simple really....

Max. intake chamber volume - Min. combustion chamber volume x 3 x the number of rotors = actual displacement. However, whether you're talking about the Norton NRS588, or the Mazda 787B, displacement was never calculated that way... Wankels can't compete with piston engines under that formula.

Not sure what the rulebook says (if anything) about non-piston engines now, never mind for the as yet to be determined rules of 2012.

Anyway, I don't care what anyone or any press release says, no NRV588 or NRV700 will ever see the MotoGP grid. They'll have to follow the BMW formula (SBK), and do what the other guys do to compete. That means PISTONS.

If we calculated displacement in that fashion (complete cycles) than conventional four stroke piston engines would be twice their displaced volume (Vmax-Vmin) X number of cylinders X number of crank rotations to complete cycle. We aren't talking displacement per cycle, just displacement which is one crank revolution.

It takes TWO crank rotations for a conventional 4-stroke piston engine to complete a combustion cycle (divide by 2, and end up with the proper displacement), you get 3 combustion cycles for every SINGLE complete rotor rotation (multiply by 3)... therein lies the debate.

Mazda will tell you their 13B displaces 1308 cc, but in most Touring Car Series, that engine must compete with 3000 cc V6's. Above is the reason why...

The debate doesn't lie in displacement, it is well defined. The debate is in energy equivalence. On a pure displacement basis a Wankel would destroy its piston equivalent. The problem lies in trying to figure out what handicap do you need to place on a certain configuration or combustion cycle in order to get equivalent performance. From my standpoint the best way to settle the debate is to limit fuel. Fuel is the key since all of the power starts as a well of potential energy locked in the fuel. Give everyone the same amount of fuel, run a spec fuel and remove the engine limitations. In a sprint race where competitors are not given the opportunity to refuel that is the optimal solution. Everybody starts with the very same thing and the winner is the one with the best solution which balances performance and efficiency.

Bluesky engineering @ 21 liters of fuel is ideal, but that's not MotoGP unfortunately... and won't be anytime soon.

The debate of displacement was being made relative to the rules as they have existed throughout the history of the sport, and how they might plausibly exist in the future. Outside of that context, it's a pointless discussion.

K the C I know what your saying, but the point i was trying to convey is that if norton had ANY chance of entering A MotoGP team thier already designed Wankel Engine is there best hope . The Wankel engine by its very nature puts out a tremendose amount of Horsepower per cc.(cheap horsepower) BTW if Dorna really wanted to change the displacement of MotoGP bikes to attain cheap horsepower , you would think the Wankel design would have been an optional power source . Yet, I do not beleive its even allowed under the new rules .

Don't the rules specify a 4 cylinder design? That means no twins, triples, 5s, sixes, turbines, jets and rotaries.

I loved Honda's production bikes in the 80s. Transverse 4s, 6s, V 4s, transverse V twins, opposed 4s and 6s, Small 4s (400cc!), parallel twins, turbos, singles.

Did I miss any? How many other manufactures experimented so much? Now it seems most new engines are V twins.