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17th August 2015

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Norton Rotary Racers at the Classic TT

One of the long-awaited highlights of this month's Classic TT will be the Norton Rotary Parade on Saturday 29th August, when a baker's dozen of these iconic machines will be let loose on the Mountain circuit...

While Norton rotary racers have appeared in many parade laps around the Mountain – and, of course featured in race wins and podiums – never before have so many appeared in one time on the Isle of Man. Indeed, this extra-special parade lap will see no less than 13 of the revolutionary machines, all owned by the National Motorcycle Museum, take to the 37.73-mile course.

The first incarnation of the rotary racers developed by Brian Crighton was the RCW, and this machine forms more than half the parade line up. Eight of the black-clad JPS-sponsored motorcycles will line up on the grid. Originally ridden between 1988 and 1990 by riders such as Steve Spray, Ron Haslam, Robert Dunlop and Ray Stringer, this time racers like Steve Parrish, Steve Plater and James Whitham will take the controls.

Trevor Nation and Steve Cull both took International road race podiums on the JPS Norton with the former finishing second in the 1990 Senior TT. Both will be reunited with their old mounts, with the two remaining RCW machines set to be ridden by William Dunlop, representing his late father Robert, and Australian ace and current works Norton rider, Cameron Donald.

Norton racers at the Classic TT

By 1990, a newer version of the 588cc machine had been developed and was badged the NRS. Nation and Dunlop both campaigned the machine at the TT, the latter taking third in both the 1990 F1 and 1992 Senior races. His youngest son Michael will be on board one of them in this year's parade with Manxman Conor Cummins on the second.

The final works NRS Norton Rotary in the parade is arguably the most famous; 'The White Charger' which the late Steve Hislop famously rode to victory in the 1992 Senior, voted the greatest TT race of all time. Hislop was riding number 19 that day and 23-time TT Race winner John McGuinness will have the honour of riding the machine.

The two remaining machines are the only ones that didn't race at the TT. On leaving the official Norton team, engineering guru Crighton first created the Roton and then the Duckhams QXR Norton, the latter going on to dominate the British Superbike Championship in 1994. The late Mark Farmer first rode the bike in 1992 before Jim Moodie finished second in both the Supercup and British Superbike Championship in 1993. However, the team enjoyed their finest moments in 1994 when they expanded to a two-rider line up in the shape of Ian Simpson and Phil Borley. Between them, the duo took no less than 14 wins and 31 podiums on their way to finishing first and third respectively in the British Superbike Championship and they also took multiple 1-2 finishes in a host of non-Championship meetings across the UK that season.

Norton racers at the Classic TT
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Simpson will ride the number 25 machine that took him to the title with the other bike being ridden by Peter Hickman, whose dad Dave played a major part in the Norton rotary's success, working with Crighton on the machines from 1987 onwards.

The riders will leave the line in single file and in chronological order to a voice-over which explains the Norton rotary racers’ remarkable history, as well as the riders who rode them. The whole shebang is expected to be one of the highlights of this year’s Classic TT. Check the schedules for the exact timing: lift-off is provisionally scheduled for tea-time. Although as soon as the bikes get underway you’ll be able to hear them all over the Island – there’s no mistaking that particular engine being revved to full bore…


If you miss seeing the rotary racers in action, then you’ll find them on display at the National Motorcycle Museum near Birmingham

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